Cap-Pelé church abuse victims can turn to ex-judge

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Retired Supreme Court Justice Michel Bastarache led a similar report in Bathurst

CBC News

Posted: Jun 4, 2012 9:59 AM AT

Last Updated: Jun 4, 2012 8:06 PM AT

The Archdiocese of Moncton is asking people from Cap-Pelé who were victims of sexual abuse by former priest Camille Léger to contact Michel Bastarache, the retired Supreme Court of Canada justice.

Archbishop André Richard said in a letter the church will continue to offer counselling to Léger’s victims who come forward.

But now the church has obtained the services of Bastarache, who will set up and manage a conciliation process for people with complaints about Léger.

Bastarache told CBC News that his conciliation process is outside of the usual legal system and that allows victims to remain anonymous.

“It’s important to say this is not a judicial process, not a mediation, not an arbitration, it is just basically a conciliation which means that – totally outside of the legal system – people can come to me and retain their privacy entirely,” he said.

Bastarache said it’s important to some victims to remain anonymous.

“If people have to go through a judicial process, they have to identify themselves, they have to answer questions in court and 95 per cent of people I met wanted to be anonymous,” Bastarache said.

“They haven’t told their children, their spouses, their family… what happened and want to retain that. So if we don’t give them an opportunity like this, probably the most affected people will not show up and not be able to claim the indemnity to which they are entitled.”

He said this process allows more money to go directly to victims.

“I think this way, the money available will go directly to the victims. It won’t be spent on lawyers’s fees and, of course, the process is meant to be very rapid,” he said. “I think within a year everything will be completed.”

Richard said Bastarache’s sense of justice and understanding of people in the community and the province will allow him to help those who have been wronged.

“His reputation for fairness and his unique understanding of the people of our community and of our province will hopefully see that those harmed by Camille Léger may have redress,” Richard said in an open letter to the diocese.

“Our hope in taking this step is to achieve reconciliation and peace with those harmed. Our thoughts and prayers are with these people and their families.”

Richard said it will be a confidential process that will give victims access to a quick settlement of their claims.

Bastarache said he will run the entire compensation process from start to finish.

“The whole process – the questionnaire, the credibility issues – all of that is left entirely to me. Even the determination of the amounts to be paid,” he said.

In terms of compensation amounts, Bastarache said he’s read 200 to 300 similar cases and he’s come up with five categories of compensation.

Each category takes into account several criteria.

“That depends on the severity of the acts, the age of the victims, how long the abuse lasted and of course the direct impact on the persons’ lives,” Bastarache said.

Compensation between $15,000 to $300,000 will be given out to Father Léger’s victims.

Victims of Father Léger have until the end of the month to contact Bastarache directly.

People coming forward to report abuse

Several people in the small, southeastern New Brunswick village have come forward recently to talk about being abused by Léger.

The priest died in 1990 and was never convicted of any crimes.

The debate started when the village council announced it would hold a referendum on whether to remove the former priest’s name from the local hockey arena.

There was an immediate groundswell of support around the idea of removing Léger’s name from the arena. The Cap-Pelé council had the sign removed and cancelled the plebiscite.

In March, Richard apologized to anyone who was abused by Léger. But he did not mention how the church had already compensated at least one individual for abuse.

Normand Brun, who now lives in Vancouver, said he was abused by Léger.

He said the abuse started when he was nine years old and it went on for four years.

Brun took his complaint to the Catholic church in 1997 and received financial compensation. He is unable to discuss how much money he received due to legal reasons.

Bathurst report in 2010

This is the second time Bastarache has handled a church-related sex abuse file in New Brunswick.

The Diocese of Bathurst hired Bastarache in 2010 to speak to anyone in the church who was abused by any clergy in the Acadian peninsula.

The northern diocese sought Bastarache’s help after two former priests were charged with sex-related offences.

In November 2010, the Catholic diocese said it would offer an apology and financial compensation to the 35 individuals who came forward during the conciliation process led by Bastarache.

Bastarache said the Bathurst diocese’s conciliation was a success in this case.

“It was very successful,” he said, “We had over 90 victims and close to 80 came to settlement.”

Shortly after Bastarache’s report was finished, a New Brunswick judge granted a request from the Roman Catholic diocese of Bathurst to seal any details surrounding financial awards given out by the church.

2 Responses to Cap-Pelé church abuse victims can turn to ex-judge

  1. Sylvia says:

    This is basically a good recap of the CBC TV Interview.

    I have two comments;

    (1) Victims desire for anonymity

    Note again how Bastarche and Archbishop Richard are playing on the shame which they know only too well keeps victims silent and afraid.  There is not a word of outreach to the victims assuring them that the shame does not belong to the victims, it belongs squarely on the shoulders of their molesters, and it belongs to those who allowed these predators to prey on the young, and it belongs to those who covered up on behalf of the molesters. 

    The shame does not belong to the victims.

    Why constantly reinforce that sense of shame?  I’d say that it suits Mr. Bastarache and the Archbishop well to keep the victims ashamed and scared to death that anyone will know who they are – that allows the powers that be to retain control of both the victims and their information, including at times the names of molesters, as well those of diocesan officials and/or clergy who turned a blind eye and ear to the victims’ cries for help, and the names of bishops who blissfully recycled known predators.

    We all know that vicitms are silenced by shame, and that it is a shame which is not theirs to bear. And we know too that countless victims can attest to the fact that when they break loose of that shame they feel, often for the first time in decades, a sense of freedom and relief.  It doesn’t by any means rid them of the pain, but the shame starts to go.

    (2) Saving legal fees

    Mr. Bastarache says that because of his conciliation process “the money available will go directly to the victims. It won’t be spent on lawyers’ fees…”

    Are we truly to believe that Mr. Bastarache, a former Supreme Court justice, comes cheaper than a regular-run-of-mill lawyer?! Really?

    The victims are no more than pawns: Take advantage of the many still bound by a shame which is not theirs to bear, and keep the faithful in the dark as to the magnitude of the abuse and extent of the cover-up.

    I don’t for a moment begrudge the victims compensation.  I do begrudge that they are used and abused to put the lid on the truth.

  2. JG says:

    *

    *Yes, bastarache’s language leads to confusion…but can be
    revealing. For example, this one caught my attention:

    “It’s important to say this is not a judicial process, not a mediation,
    not an arbitration, it is just basically a conciliation which means that
    totally outside of the legal system – people can come to me and
    retain their privacy entirely,” he said.

    Doesn’t that mean it is
    an ”ILLEGAL” intervention on his part?…and that he is only riding
    his ”ex-judge” privileges? Shouldn’t it be ”LEGAL” as for the rest
    of us…or is that ”mafia” not required to operate within ”the legal system”?…two measures?

    Really, he could be selling darts in a Carnival and handing out little stuffed toys! He would probably rig that too. !!!

    I think his statement shows he is having doubts about the ”Cardinal’s Carnaval” games…A little over a year ago we were asking about priests…then we found out about  the ”bishops”…so the next natural progression may just be ”Cardinalesque”… 

    We’ve been on their ”merry-go-round” long enough…getting very difficult to remain polite!

    jg

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