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the Lescouflair’s affair reveals the flwas of St. Louis de Gonzague #HaitiBeat

For three months, AyiboPost spoke with 15 former ISLG students and consulted with current members of the institution. Their testimonies portray a school on the defensive and whose commitment to protecting children is challenged by a deep-seated religious conservatism

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Jean Harry Adrien Junior still has vivid memories of that ordinary afternoon in 1988. A frail little boy at the time, he was only twelve years old when the sports teacher grabbed him by the nape of the neck in a deserted shower at the Institution Saint-Louis de Gonzague (ISGL – a renowned catholic school for boys in Haiti).

The sharp sound of a water container set on the ground forced the man to let go. But the child, now a successful entrepreneur, hasn’t forgotten the force of the attack or the chill that ran down his spine: “Evans Lescouflair was wearing tight shorts and he had a solid erection,” recalls Adrien Junior.

The next day, the student went to the office of his section director, a French priest named Gérard Hautbois, to file a complaint. He tells of the seriousness of the act. He says that he was saved by the intrusion of an employee. He explains his discomfort. The man of God seemed to listen to him. Because later in the day, he came back to the child with his decision: “You can stop  attending sports classes, and you will receive a fixed grade for each exam”.

Adrien Junior would not return to Lescouflair’s sessions until he was expelled from school in 1993, according to documents obtained by AyiboPost. This also allowed him to avoid the often arbitrary punishments inflicted by Lescouflair on ISLG students to isolate them from the group and abuse them, according to several testimonies.

Claude Alix Bertrand is among the victims. He was one year younger than Adrien Junior when Lescouflair began touching him in a suspicious manner, before sexually abusing him for two years in the late 1980s.

In January 2022, Bertrand told his experience publicly.

A scandal ensued.

The ISLG in a joint note with the Saint-Louis de Gonzague Alumni Foundation condemned “any form of violence and aggression committed on any person and especially on children.” Very quickly, the school urges “present-day parents to be careful, to be present and to work closely with teachers, the institution and its students.”

ISLG’s leadership at the time did not announce an investigation into the actions of its former employee from 30 years past, nor did it announce any new measures to prevent a recurrence. “This is a school that should be closed”, adds Adrien Junior. “Saint-Louis was not a good experience for me, he says. I would never put my kids there.”

Evans Lescouflair, in prison since July 2022 for these acts, denies any liability. His former lawyer Jean-Simon Saint-Hubert says he no longer represents him, and no attorney could be identified before the publication of this piece.

“In Haiti, as soon as you are in a position of authority, you are, it seems, above the law”, says Patrick Chevalier, a member of the class of 2008. The engineer speaks of “disappointment” in the reaction of the institution of Saint-Louis de Gonzague and “other classmates also share this feeling.”

Evans Lescouflair file provided by ISLG

On July 18, a new director arrived at the ISLG. Brother Simon Alphonse showed his sympathy for the cause of Claude Alix Bertrand, a former student in his class. He took drastic steps. Bertrand’s class, the class of 1995, provided significant material and intellectual support for these efforts.

“These abuses took place in Saint-Louis, but how many other schools are also affected nationwide? offers Almiracle Saint Fort, a member of the class.  We need to put safeguards in place so that the laws of the country crack down on the perpetrators”, says the former vice president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Haiti.

The ISLG directorate is taking the lead. It helped create a four-member child protection committee this year. This group is charged with investigating the Lescouflair case. “If we know about something, we have to inform the authorities, otherwise we would be accomplices”, says Brother Alphonse in an interview in his office on November 2, 2022.

The ISLG has held a child protection protocol since at least 2015. However, the document has never been signed by the teachers. Brother Simon is in the process of updating that protocol. He says he made a point of publishing the text on the school’s website “before he met with AyiboPost.”

Teachers will soon sign the protocol, and each new faculty member will undergo a psychological test, promises Brother Alphonse.

In an interview, the clergyman notes that the contracts signed by the teachers do not mention anything about child protection. “Now that I realize that something is missing, I think we will have to revise it, says the former teacher. The contract needs to be revised.”

A children’s rights expert working with the school welcomes these measures. “The new management is very human rights and child protection oriented,” explains Marjorie Bertrand.

However, it will be a long road. For three months, AyiboPost spoke with 15 former ISLG students and consulted with current members of the institution. Their testimonies portray a school on the defensive and whose commitment to protecting children is challenged by a deep-seated religious conservatism.

Brother Simon Alphonse was a prefect of discipline between 2005 and 2006, and a teacher between 1995 and 1997 before leaving to study in France and Italy. For him, homosexuality is a “pathology” that represents “the end of humanity”. He reveals that he has never received any complaints of sexual abuse from students.

“An institution like Saint-Louis was a holy and sacred ground where hierarchy had to be respected, remarks an executive close to the ISLG. There may be other victims who may have suffered as much abuse as Claude Alix and been buried with their silence, or others who are afraid.”

If the investigation of the newly formed protection committee is slow to start, Brother Alphonse seems to already have a strong opinion of the facts. When asked about Jean Harry Adrien Junior’s experience, he says: “There are people who hallucinate. There are groups of people like that. Personally, I have many imaginations.”

AyiboPost corroborated Adrien Junior’s testimony with one of his classmates.

As for the Claude Alix Bertrand case, Brother Alphonse is surprised that the child’s parents did not intervene at the time. “Maybe there was something at home. And it was reported [at school], Brother Alphonse wonders. Maybe things were happening at home instead.”

The new director made it his mission to convert young people with a strong “homosexual tendency”. At first, he encouraged them to leave this path. When he was a disciplinary prefect, he remembers counseling nearly a dozen of them. Otherwise, he says, “I’ll take it up with the board. And expulsion may come into play.”

The ISLG belongs to the Frères de l’instruction chrétienne (Brothers of Christian Instruction), commonly called FIC. This religious group, initially four, from countries such as France, Canada and Spain arrived in Haiti in 1864, shortly after the signing of a “concordat” between Haiti and the Vatican. Since then, they have been involved in vocation promotion, the creation of school books and the operation of eight schools across the country. Various other institutions have affiliated with the FIC to provide quality education to thousands of young Haitians, some of whom are now leading businesses in the private sector as well as in government.

Considered one of the most prestigious schools in Haiti, ISLG continues to grow. Today, the school accompanies 2014 students with a staff of 148 members. Among its alumni are former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, the former president Michel Joseph Martelly and the founder of the Haitian Communist Party, and writer, Jacques Roumain.

The Brothers are now 55, including 4 French and 3 Canadians. Since the beginning, foreigners have had a prominent place in the affairs of the FIC. For example, the ISLG, launched in 1890, had to wait until 1986, nearly 100 years, to welcome its first director general of Haitian nationality, Brother Serge Larose. It was also under his leadership that Evans Lescouflair left the school under circumstances that are still unclear. One rumor is that he was dismissed for serious misconduct, but the ISLG maintains that he submitted his resignation instead. The school was not able to provide AyiboPost with an administrative document to support its accounts. Brother Serge was ill and could not be interviewed.

Accusations of sexual abuse of children tarnish the image of the FIC. For example, they ran the école nationale congréganiste Cyr-Guillo de Gonaïves (Cyr-Guillo National Congregational School of Gonaïves) until 2020. A student who attended the school between 1994 and 2001 testified that he was forced to touch the genitals of “Brother Victor”, a former French teacher who has since died, during reading sessions. Now married and the father of a baby girl, the man is asking that his name not be released to protect his family, although he spoke publicly about the case in the United States in 2018.

“Someone tried to introduce me to a pedophile ring when I was prefect of discipline at the time,” the current director of the ISLG, Brother Simon Alphonse told AyiboPost. “Never would I have done such a thing,” confided Brother Alphonse, who said he had discussed the matter within the congregation.

The director does not know the names of the people behind the network. He thinks they may have been people who wanted to test him. “They were looking to see if I had this tendency.”

A far greater test awaits the director: purging the school of the Evans Lescouflair threat. With his ungainly appearance, the former athlete may not have the looks of Marlon Brando in The Godfather, but his voice, sometimes deep, and the enormous power he holds in soccer make him a feared godfather. He was Secretary of State in the late 1990s and Minister of Youth and Sports between 2008 and 2011.

His mark can be found in many of the most important sports initiatives of the last decades. Among others, the launching of the National Football Academy  (Académie Nationale de Football, ANAFOOT) in 2001, followed by the “Programme Opération 2006”, as well as the opening of the National School for Sports Talent (École Nationale de Talents sportifs, ENTS).

These initiatives have been a lifeline to many young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. “Opération 2006 marked the beginning of one of the most important periods in Haitian football, says sports law expert Nathan Laguerre. It was thanks to Opération that we became Caribbean champions in 2007, it was epic.”

When Lescouflair had to leave the Saint-Louis Institute to join the Haitian government, the ISLG allowed him to leave with the Club Saint-Louis, one of the first schools of its kind in the country. In July 2001, he also founded the Youth Support Center (Centre d’Appui à la Jeunesse, CEDAJ). CEDAJ has in fact benefited in 2018 from a partnership with the National Center for Distance Learning of the French Ministry for National Education. For the launch of the activities, the head of the Cooperation Mission of the French Embassy, Laurent Bonneau personally made the trip.

In September 2011, the Lescouflair system suffered its first attack: a CEDAJ employee, Willio Dor, filed a complaint of rape and threats against the minister. The case is grafted onto a battered reputation, but the prosecutor’s office, under strong political pressure, does not follow up on the complaint.

The incidents date back to ten days prior to the earthquake of January 12, 2010. In the commissioner’s minutes, Willio Dor says he was summoned, physically abused, and threatened by his employer, Evans Lescouflair. Two days later, he went to the National Human Rights Defense Network (RNDDH) to file a complaint, according to documents from that time, seen by AyiboPost. In a photo taken at the RNDDH office, a “burn” mark can be seen on Dor’s right shoulder. Dark circles surround his eyes.

Willio Dor braved his fear and decided to file a complaint seven months later. The case made a lot of noise. A political recuperation follows. Then nothing more. Publicly at least, since his life turned into a nightmare without a window after the government commissioner at the time, Harricydas Auguste, dropped the case in October 2010. Faced with the urgency of repeated threats, Dor requested and received help from RNDDH to leave the country. Since then, he has been hiding in silence.

Silence also cloaks the experience of former players and staff supported by Lescouflair. A former employee of the Ministry of Youth and Sports tells AyiboPost that he was harassed by the former minister when he was a sports technician at the ministry between 2008 and 2009. He says he traveled abroad thanks to the minister, without ever having yielded to his demands. He requests anonymity for safety reasons. The professional went to RNDDH to file a complaint of harassment, and then pocketed a large sum of money from Lescouflair in exchange for his silence. The organization confirms to AyiboPost that it has had exchanges with the man.

“The minister promised trips abroad in exchange for sexual services,” says the man. He abused vulnerable children in a secret room at the Croix des Bouquets ranch, called the minister’s room.”

Despite his terrible reputation, and at least one public scandal, Lescouflair continued to have access to children. In May 2018, for example, he was photographed in France with his “friend of 40 years” former ISLG director Gerard Hautbois. They were accompanying a team of very young football players from Club Saint-Louis who were participating in an international tournament.

Its initiatives have also been supported by several institutions such as Unicef, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti and the French NGO Solidarité Laïque. In March 2012, the head of the French cooperation Antoinette Lepeltier Durel came to launch a training session at CEDAJ for supervisors of the Haitian Rehabilitation Center for Minors in Conflict with the Law (Projet Charmical). The prosecutor at the time, Jean Renel Sénatus was also present for this initiative introduced by Evans Lescouflair. Evans Lescouflair stated that he had signed an agreement with several government ministries and received financial support from international institutions.

Since July 2022, the former minister has been in the civil prison of Port-au-Prince. He was arrested in Puerto Rico after fleeing from Haiti following an invitation to appear in court on May 12, 2022. Yves Jean-Bart, his friend and former president of the Haitian footbal federation, is also under investigation for sexual abuse of minors. Cleared by the Haitian justice system, he was disbarred for life by FIFA in 2020 following shocking revelations published by The Guardian.

“This means that there is a real problem of violence and aggression in the sports environment in Haiti, said Nathan Laguerre, a sports rights expert. For a long time, these problems were hidden while they were reported elsewhere.”

Former collaborators are also distancing themselves. Contacted by AyiboPost, the diplomatic representative of France in Haiti speaks of a few limited cases where some partner structures of the embassy may have had a link with Mr. Evans Lescouflair. The institution “strongly condemns sexual violence committed against minors and hopes that all light will be shed on the case involving Mr. Evans Lescouflair.”

Companies headed by entrepreneur Daniel Gérard Rouzier support Lescouflair’s initiatives. The relationship between the two men dates back to the 1980s. When the former Secretary of State sought refuge after the 1991 coup against Jean Bertrand Aristide, Rouzier, his former student at ISLG, helped him financially.

One of Lescouflair’s initiatives, for example, receives $2,500 per month from Sunauto, a company run by Daniel Gérard Rouzier. A small bus was donated to the Saint-Louis Club and the school was able to use company lands.

Shortly after hearing the “moving and heartbreaking” testimony of Claude Alix Bertrand, Daniel Rouzier picked up the phone and called Evans Lescouflair. The businessman, known for his charitable work, was thinking about the children and many employees supported by CEDAJ and the Saint-Louis Club. He wants to continue to help but makes it a condition that Lescouflair must withdraw. At the other end of the line, the former minister claimed his innocence, but agreed to resign.

“So far, I’m upset, says Daniel Gérard Rouzier. He is someone for whom I had and still have a lot of esteem. I also have esteem for Claude Alix Bertrand. The truth must be established, and justice must be done to whom it may concern.”

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