‘Ottawa’ Father Joe Fined for Impaired Driving, Warned Against re-offending
Rev. Joseph LeClair will lose his licence for a year after pleading guilty to impaired driving in a Guelph courtroom two months after he was stopped by an Ontario Provincial Police RIDE program.
According to an agreed statement of facts entered into court last week, blood tests showed LeClair, 58, was driving with almost twice the legal limit of alcohol in his system on the evening of May 21.
Two tests showed he had an average blood alcohol content of 150 milligrams in 100 millilitres of blood. The legal limit is 80 milligrams per 100 millilitres.
Judge Marietta Roberts imposed a $1,000 fine in the case in addition to the licence suspension, and she warned LeClair that a second conviction for impaired driving could land him in prison.
“You are the example for your community,” Roberts said, according to a report on the website, Guelph Today. “Think of the kind of example you want to make.”
Defence lawyer Matthew Stanley told court LeClair has been attending addiction and psychiatric counselling, and has shared the story of his addiction struggles with high school students in Guelph.
“He is trying to make a positive out of it,” said Stanley.
Neither LeClair nor his lawyer responded to requests for comment on Tuesday.
Although assigned to a parish in Guelph, LeClair remains an official member of the Archdiocese of Ottawa.
LeClair was among the city’s best-known and most highly regarded priests when he became embroiled in scandal five years ago at Ottawa’s Blessed Sacrament Parish.
In April 2011, after Postmedia wrote a story that examined his gambling, debts and his church’s poor financial controls, LeClair denounced the newspaper and denied taking parish money.
Three years later, LeClair admitted in court to an elaborate course of fraud and theft: He wrote cheques to himself from church accounts, overcharged for his personal expenses, dipped his hand into Sunday collections, and redirected fees for marriage preparation courses to his own account.
At his January 2014 sentencing hearing on theft and fraud charges, LeClair‘s defence lawyer told court that the priest suffered from work-related anxiety, which led to the heavy drinking that fuelled his gambling binges at Casino du Lac-Leamy.
An audit revealed that $1.16 million moved through LeClair‘s personal bank account between January 2006 and December 2010. About $400,000 of that money could not be explained, court heard, and could not be tied to salary, stipends, gifts or casino winnings.
In March 2014, LeClair was sentenced to one year in jail. He was released in November of that year and assigned to a Moncton parish but suffered a relapse and was later moved to Guelph’s Saint Joseph Catholic Church, the largest parish in that city.