The head of Canada's Boy Scouts has apologized to victims of sexual abuse in the organization and announced an independent review of confidential files it has long kept on leaders accused of molestation.
"Our sincere efforts to prevent such crimes have not always succeeded, and we are sorry for that and saddened at any resulting harm," said Steve P. Kent, chairman of the governing board of Scouts Canada.
Kent said he has asked an outside auditing firm to review confidential records that Scouts Canada, like the Boy Scouts of America, has maintained for decades to keep known molesters out of its ranks. The two organizations are independent of each other.
Kent said the moves were sparked by recent media attention. In October, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. and the Los Angeles Times published a joint investigation that found Scouts Canada and the Boy Scouts of America had failed to prevent a convicted child molester from abusing Scouts over two decades on both sides of the border, and at times had helped him cover his tracks.
Scouts Canada Chief Executive Janet Yale denied that her organization kept confidential records. She resigned abruptly in November after the CBC published proof of their existence.
The Boy Scouts of America has fought in court to keep its files from public view, arguing they contain no information of value. On Thursday evening, a spokesman said the BSA has in the past apologized to victims both publicly and privately.
"We believe perpetrators of abuse should be punished to the fullest extent of the law; even suspicion of abuse must be reported by members and volunteers to law enforcement and result in immediate removal from Scouting," the organization said in a statement.
In recent years, the BSA has been the subject of dozens of lawsuits alleging it mishandled cases of sexual abuse. Last year, an Oregon man was awarded nearly $20 million when a jury found the BSA had failed to protect him from a known molester.
Paul Mones, one of his attorneys, said he hoped the Boy Scouts of America would issue a blanket apology like their Canadian counterparts — and back it up with "substantial reparations" to victims.
"The vast number of victims will never come forward. This will on a certain level, for those who feel they can't come forward because they are too embarrassed or blame themselves, be of some solace," he said of the Canadian apology.