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