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OTTAWA - A former Nova Scotia bishop facing child-pornography charges has turned himself in to Ottawa police.
Raymond Lahey, 69, was charged Friday - 10 days after officials found images of "concern" on his laptop computer at the Ottawa airport as he was returning from a foreign country.
Lahey resigned from his post with the Roman Catholic diocese of Antigonish on the weekend before news of the charges emerged.
Just weeks ago, Lahey's diocese reached a $15-million settlement with people who said they were abused by priests as children.
The bishop announced details in August of the settlement involving sexual abuse in the Antigonish diocese that dated back to 1950. Lahey was not implicated in the case and had been in the diocese for only the last six years.
None of the allegations against him in the charges laid in Ottawa have been proven in court.
Police say Lahey was sent for a secondary examination at the Ottawa airport, where border services searched his laptop and "found images ... that were of concern."
The laptop and other media devices were seized by border guards and a later forensic examination "revealed child pornography," the release says.
He was released at the airport pending further investigations and police say a warrant was issued for the arrest of Lahey when charges were laid.
Const. Alain Boucher of Ottawa police said Lahey wasn't the target of a police investigation.
"It appears to have been a random check at this time," he said.
Chris Kealey, a spokesman with the Canada Border Services Agency, wouldn't comment on the case, but said it can take days to proceed with charges because computers and other devices can be difficult to search.
"In some cases of child pornography, we see thousands of images that have to be viewed by the investigators to determine if those images constitute the definition of child pornography," he said.
There are times, he said, when border agents can't discern if photos on a digital device involve minors because a screen may too small or the data might be encrypted or buried in deleted files.
The length of time it takes to lay charges "may be an indication of the complexity of the device, it could be the volume of the material that we have to sift through or it could be other factors like difficulties getting devices that have security passwords," he said.
Kealey said the agency can hold someone if they have grounds, but they would normally release someone if an investigation was going to take an "unreasonable amount of time."
News of the charges came as a blow to people in the diocese of Antigonish - which includes Cape Breton - after the sexual abuse lawsuit was approved by a court on Sept. 10.
John MacEachern, a long-time Roman Catholic parishioner who lives in Glace Bay in Cape Breton, said the bishop had been held in wide esteem in the diocese for his work as theologian and a liturgist with the national church.
MacEachern, the vice principal of a Glace Bay high school, said the news of charges is "tragically horrible," for people in the diocese.
"The whole thing was like somebody had punched you in the stomach. ... If it proves to be true, it is just tragic," said MacEachern.
MacEachern also said he expects that the charges will create "an added strain" on the diocese's efforts to raise funds for a legal settlement with sexual abuse survivors.
"My old parish has closed its doors and we've been reassigned to another church. We have a declining population and so we have been stretched to keep the lights on and keep the roof from leaking," he said in an interview.
"It's going to cause a further hesitancy (to donate) in the short term."
MacEachern said that Lahey was "the face of the settlement," and the person who was going to help the local church move on from the abuse.
"If this thing is true, the contradiction is explosive to the faith of some people. ... It's a contradiction and that's what challenges faith all the time," he said.
Anthony Mancini, the Archbishop of Halifax, said the charges against Lahey are difficult for Catholic parishioners.
"We are going through a very painful, contemporary experience of the mystery of faith," Mancini told a news conference in Sydney, N.S.
"I call on you to be hopeful because we do believe in new life and in new possibilities."

Organizations: Canada Border Services Agency

Geographic location: OTTAWA, Antigonish, Nova Scotia Cape Breton Glace Bay Halifax Sydney

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