By QMI Agency
Last Updated: April 21, 2010 1:58pm
A New Brunswick diocese plagued by a sexual abuse scandal has appointed a former Supreme Court justice to determine how to compensate victims.
In a statement read at parishes in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bathurst on the weekend, Bishop Valery Vienneau announced an independent process has begun to compensate at least 18 victims of sexual abuse by clergy.
The Acadian Peninsula diocese became the centre of controversy in October after retired Roman Catholic priest Levi Noel, 84, pleaded guilty to 18 sex-related charges involving boys between 1958 and 1981. The victims were between the ages of eight and 16 at the time of the abuse. He pleaded guilty to four additional charges in January.
Noel was sentenced to eight years in prison.
“Many victims have rightfully called for the diocese to account, and we will do so to the best of our abilities,” said Vienneau.
“To this end, the issues we seek to resolve in this process to validate victims and recognize the harm done to them, while offering them a fair compensation,” Vienneau said.
The diocese has appointed former Supreme Court justice Michel Bastarache to negotiate settlements.
The compensation process reflects “our determination to seek reconciliation from victims if they wish and to reaffirm our desire to see that such incidents do not reoccur in our diocese,” Vienneau told QMI Agency in an e-mail.
Bastarache currently works for a law firm in Ottawa and has asked any victims of abuse in the diocese to come forward so he can meet with them beginning in June.
“My intention is to design a process that is as fast, simple and inexpensive as possible,” Bastarache said. He hopes to have the compensation paid out to the victims before the end of the year.
The Ontario law firm representing several of Noel’s victims said the “prospect of timely and fair compensation is greatly welcomed.”
“The victims hope that this process though will not stop at compensation and will at some point also examine any institutional responsibility of the diocese for the horrific crimes which transpired in their jurisdiction for decades,” Ledroit Beckett Litigation Lawyers said in a release.