SAINT JOHN, N.B. - A city councillor in Saint John, N.B., well-known for his community work with youths is facing child pornography and sexual touching charges, leaving friends and colleagues in shock.
Donnie Snook was led into provincial court Thursday by sheriff officers, where he was charged with eight counts including possessing and making child pornography as well as sexual interference with a child under 16.
Snook, wearing blue jeans and a blue jean shirt, stared straight ahead as he was read the charges. He was remanded into custody until a bail hearing set for Monday.
Darrell Bastarache, a long-time friend of Snook, was among the people in the packed courtroom to hear the charges.
"It really shocks me," Bastarache said outside court.
"Everything he did was good. Just to hear something like this and not to be able to even see it, and all of a sudden it's in front of your face, is a real disappointment."
Bastarache said his children were around Snook a lot as they grew up and he never had any worries.
"I questioned my kids and they said everything is fine," Bastarache said.
The Mounties allege that the three charges of sexual interference span a six-year period from December 2006 to January of this year and involve the same child. The child pornography charges are alleged to have taken place from March 2011 until this month, the RCMP says.
He was arrested at his home in the east end of the city Wednesday evening by the RCMP after an investigation that began in 2011 involving the Saint John and Toronto police. RCMP Cpl. Chantal Farrah said police seized computer equipment and images after carrying out a search warrant at his home.
Snook, 40, was first elected as councillor in this port city of 70,000 people in 2008. He is involved in community organizations and has been the director of the Inner City Youth Ministry for 14 years.
Brian Earle, the president of the ministry's board of directors, said he was stunned to hear of Snook's arrest.
"Donnie has been an excellent director and we've always been very happy with his performance, so we are just really shocked by what's happening," Earle said.
The ministry runs programs such as the Chicken Noodle Club, which provides about 60,000 hot lunches to children annually.
The Inner City Youth Ministry operates out of Trinity Anglican Church in Saint John and is supported by the Diocese of Fredericton.
In a statement issued Thursday, Archbishop Claude Miller of the Anglican Diocese of Fredericton said he was "shocked and concerned" to learn about Snook's arrest.
According to his Facebook page, Snook has been heavily involved in youth programs, serving as a board member for the Boys and Girls Club and helping with hockey and other recreational programs.
Saint John Mayor Mel Norton said Snook has been an active councillor who has devoted much of his time on social issues.
"He has been very vocal on housing and poverty issues in the community," Norton said.