But his low self-esteem and the stress and anxiety he still felt from being abused by the former Roman Catholic priest about a decade before, prevented him from pursuing his dream career.
He also wanted to become a police officer and was considered a strong candidate in almost every category of the selection process. He was rejected when the recruiting officers considered his unresolved childhood issues a potential liability on the force.
This is just one glimpse into how 13 men feel their lives were ruined at the hands of Smith, who sexually assaulted them when they were young boys while Smith was a parish priest in their communities.
Smith, who pleaded guilty to 41 charges of sexual assault, indecent assault and assault, was in Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador in Corner Brook for a sentencing hearing Wednesday. So were several of his victims, who were given the opportunity to tell Smith how his actions so long ago continue to affect them to this day.
The offences occurred over a nearly 20-year period from 1969 to 1989 in several western Newfoundland communities including Corner Brook, St. Fintan’s, Stephenville, Cape St. George, Deer Lake and Port Saunders. Some of the assaults happened while Smith was escorting boys on trips to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
The incidents ranged from kissing and fondling of genitals to incidents of oral sex and anal penetration.
In an agreed statement of facts read into the record by Crown attorney Trina Simms, the court heard how some victims experienced isolated incidents of less serious assaults, while others experienced repeated and more serious offences over the course of months or even years.
In many of the cases, Smith invited the boys — some of whom were altar boys — to his home for overnight visits, then plied them with alcohol or other gifts before assaulting them. In some cases, Smith would give his victims money or allow them to drive his car.
Some described passing out and waking to find Smith sexually assaulting them. Others described pretending to be asleep while the assaults were taking place.
A couple of them actually lashed out at the priest and his advances. One victim punched Smith in the eye and described how Smith had to wear sunglasses to hide his blackened eye the following day.
Only three of the 13 victims read their victim impact statements in open court. There was a sad theme of significant and irreversible damage permeating each of the statements, noted Simms.
“The impact is immeasurable and it doesn’t stop,” she said.
The victims spoke of issues trusting people, difficulty developing healthy relationships with others and struggling with thoughts of suicide.
One victim said he tried to kill himself several times.
Like many of the other victims, that man said he has lost his faith in the Catholic Church. One of the three victims to address the court, the man who is now a Jehovah’s Witness looked at Smith sitting quietly in the docket and forgave him for what he did.
“My god Jehovah is a forgiving god and I want to do the same,” he said to Smith.
Holding a crucifix that Smith had given him some 35 years ago, another victim told the court he too has renounced his Catholic faith. He now embraces his aboriginal ancestry.
During a break in the hearing, he said wanted to give Smith his crucifix back. He could not give the cross to Smith in person, since Smith is in custody, but the victim said he will try to find a way to send the crucifix to the disgraced clergyman.
“The cross has proven to be too much to bear, so I will be returning this cross to George Smith and let him bear the cross for a little while,” said the man.
Clarifying that he did not mean to offend the homosexual community as a whole, he also called the Catholic priesthood “a haven for homosexuals and a playground for pedophiles.”
He called Smith “a sexual predator” who took advantage of his position of trust in the community.
“I believe this priest had ample opportunity, influence and power to assist such a vulnerable family like mine but, instead, I feel he chose to exploit a fiercely obedient mother and prey upon her young children,” the man said.
Simms asked Justice William Goodridge to sentence Smith to between nine and 13 years in prison, given the number and duration of his abusive behaviour, while defence lawyer Tom Williams argued that Smith should be given seven to nine years, minus the one year he has already served in custody.
“The cross has proven to be too much to bear, so I will be returning this cross to George Smith and let him bear the cross for a little while.” - Victim of former Roman Catholic priest George Ansel Smith
The case law cited by Simms included some decisions based on the Mount Cashel orphanage sex scandal. Williams said those matters involved a greater breach of trust since the young boys at the orphanage were essentially “captives of their abusers,” that their abuse was almost daily and involved seriously violent beatings. Most of the Christian Brothers charged in that scandal also pleaded not guilty to the charges against them, which Williams said showed a lack of remorse and required victims to testify at trial.
Williams also noted that Smith was diagnosed with homosexual hebephilia — a preference for young boys — and many of his offences were precipitated by alcohol abuse. Williams said Smith sought treatment for these two conditions in 1992 and has not drank or been involved in any criminal activity in the last two decades.
When Smith was given a chance to address the court himself Wednesday, he first apologized to the judge and the court. Goodridge interrupted him and said the people Smith needed to apologize to were his victims.
Smith then turned to the victims and their families and said he was sorry, adding there was nothing he could say or do to right the wrong he did to them. He said his offences have also caused him “tremendous pain and suffering” and asked his victims to forgive him if they possibly could.
Goodridge said he has “a good idea” of the sentence he will give Smith, but has reserved his decision until March 14.
Before closing court, he congratulated the victims for courageously coming forward, knowing there is no possible sentence that can give them their childhood back or erase the trauma they have suffered.
“The only thing that will stop people like you,” he said to Smith directly,”Is for (victims) to come forward.”