The Province

Sex offender on church payroll

TSAWWASSEN: $1,000 sent each month to jailed former youth pastor

- BY KATIE MERCER STAFF REPORTER

A Delta youth pastor convicted of child sex abuse in Mexico — and wanted in B.C. for child pornograph­y — is still being paid by his parish.

Brad Firth, 41, the former supervisor of youth activities at St. David’s Anglican Church in Tsawwassen, has been receiving “compassion­ate pay” of $1,000 a month since being arrested in the Baja Peninsula, near Tijuana, in 2004.

“He is suspended with reduced pay,” Rector Rev. Paul Woehrle said yesterday. “We are giving something to support him and his son.”

Woehrle said the money goes toward buying additional food and water as well as for physical, mental and emotional counsellin­g for Firth and his adopted Haitian son. The preteen boy is living with Firth’s family in Alberta.

The parish is also covering Firth’s legal fees.

Asked how the parish justifies paying a convicted sex offender, Woehrle said: “We had a plan that says, until the appeal process is exhausted, we would continue this financial support.

“The appeal process has not been exhausted yet. That’s our rationale.”

The decision to continue paying Firth was supported by a parish council vote, he said.

Neale Adams, spokesman for the Diocese of New Westminste­r, said Firth was employed by the parish and not by the diocese.

The diocese refused to comment on Firth’s conviction.

Firth was convicted in June of sexually abusing a 14-year-old Mexican boy who attended a Bible camp at an Ensenada church in 2001.

He was sentenced to 11 years, minus four years for time spent in La Mesa penitentia­ry since being arrested on July 15, 2004.

On Oct. 14, Firth appeared before an appeal tribunal. The results are expected in the next few weeks.

The church has asked parishione­rs to pray that Firth’s appeal goes well, and for the well-being of his lawyer.

Firth had been going on twiceyearl­y missionary trips to Mexico for eight years when he was arrested.

On 15 of the 16 trips, he travelled with young people and at least two adults. The groups worked renovating churches and orphanages and conducted Bible camps.

In B.C., Firth ran the St. David’s Powerhouse Youth Centre for youths aged 17 to 19. He worked with the church for 13 years, 10 as its full-time youth pastor.

That position has since been filled and, even if Firth is released, Woehrle “doesn’t see that changing.”

“The goal is to get him on a plane,” Woehrle said. “This will not be an ongoing situation. As soon as he’s on a plane, then we’ll have to review the whole situation.”

If and when Firth returns to Canada, he will be greeted by police.

Firth is wanted by Delta police on one count of possessing child pornograph­y and one of accessing child pornograph­y.

He faces up to five years in prison on both charges.

Police said “numerous images” were found in Firth’s church office in a November 2004 investigat­ion.

“We’re not sure what was found and where it was found,” said Woehrle. “Although he is facing the two charges, we don’t know what the source of that was.”

Asked if there had been inappropri­ate behaviour by Firth in this past, Woehrle said: “No. I’ve been here for six years and, no, there were none.”

Woehrle refused to say if he was aware of complaints or concerns about Firth behaving inappropri­ately — illegally or otherwise — before Woehrle became rector.

kmercer@theprovinc­e.com

 ?? JASON PAYNE — THE PROVINCE ?? The parish of St. David’s Anglican Church in Tsawwassen is sending ‘compassion­ate pay’ to its former youth paster, Brad Firth, now in jail in Mexico after being convicted of child sex abuse.
JASON PAYNE — THE PROVINCE The parish of St. David’s Anglican Church in Tsawwassen is sending ‘compassion­ate pay’ to its former youth paster, Brad Firth, now in jail in Mexico after being convicted of child sex abuse.

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