A former Smithers pastor has admitted to sexual abuse.
Henry Clarke, who served in the Christian and Missionary Alliance church for over 30 years, admitted in interviews with BBC North Ireland and CTV Saskatoon that he had abused three young boys in the late 1960s.
Clarke claims the abuse took place in his home country, and he has not abused any children since immigrating to Canada in the late ‘70s.
He moved to Smithers in 2001 and served at the former Alliance church until 2006, when the district shut the church on Upper Viewmount Road down due to “internal disagreements.”
Clarke was also on Smithers Town committees.
He moved to Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, where he now lives in retirement.
Documentation of a confession Clarke made to the North Irish authorities in 1985 resurfaced in 2016, and BBC North Ireland tracked him down to his Saskatchewan home in March of the following year.
“They arrived at my door without any warning and handed me a letter and… you know, I had already spoken to the [North Ireland] police in the 1980s, and was quite surprised about the way the thing was handled,” Clarke told The Interior News.
“I mean, I said yes,that I had behaved in such a way. But the [BBC North Ireland] interviewer put his own slant on the whole story. He had suggested that I’d used coming to Canada to run away from everything; that was not true at all.”
Clarke said he enjoyed his time in Smithers.
“I believe that I served the people in Smithers as well as I could. There will be those in Smithers that will be very, very angry. And there will be those that will be very supportive.”
He also said that his life since the release of the article has not been easy.
“I put in over 30 years as a pastor, and I believe that I’d done an honest job. It has been difficult. Certainly there have been those that have been very supportive, and there have been a number of people who have not been supportive. But I belong to a very supportive church here, and the community here has been very supportive.”
“I’m surprised that it’s well over a year now that this is coming up again, you know? I certainly am very sorry that I’ve hurt anybody, but I certainly take responsibility for my behaviour, which is over 50 years ago,” Clarke said.
“I mean, it’s one of those situations in life, if you had it to live over again you’d know better, but … that’s where I’m at, and I’m trying to live my life now the best I can.”
The Interior News reached out to the Pacific District for the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada for more information but did not receive answers by press time. The organization’s website says it has about 440 local churches in Canada.