The Ontario Court of Appeal has upheld a $2.57-million ruling against a Catholic religious order for decades-old acts of sexual abuse committed by one of its priests, who spent time in Windsor.
The Basilian Fathers of Toronto’s unsuccessful appeal of the April 2018 court order forcing them to pay a victim of Father Hodgson Marshall the money — including $500,000 in punitive damages — should be a “very loud wakeup call for the Catholic Church,” according to the victim’s lawyer.
“It puts a new price tag on complicity and cover up,” London lawyer Rob Talach told the Star Friday. “Hopefully it’s a price tag that’s too expensive for any institution to pay, which will create greater safety for children, and greater reaction to historical abuse.”
Rod MacLeod, now 69, was a student at an all-boys high school in Sudbury in the 1960s when Marshall began to abuse him. The abuse went on for four years.
According to a Friday news release from Talach’s law firm, Beckett Personal Injury Lawyers, the Basilians had received at least three complaints of sexual abuse by Marshall before he was assigned to MacLeod’s school in Sudbury.
“He’s definitely pleased, and I think more importantly he’s relieved,” Talach said on MacLeod’s behalf. “Not only has this decision been confirmed, it also really ends the legal journey for him. He’s been at this seven years now.
Marshall was convicted in 2011 of abusing 16 boys and one woman over the course of 38 years spent as a Basilian priest and Catholic teacher in Windsor, Toronto, Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie. He served two-thirds of his two-year prison sentence before being released from custody.
He died in 2014 at the age of 92.
“This is confirmation of a failing grade for the Catholic Church, not just on the historic response to abuse, but on their contemporary response as well,” Talach said about the Friday court decision.
“It is the law in Ontairo now, and it is very influential in the other provinces because it’s an appellant level decision.”
In Windsor, Marshall was a teacher, sports coach and a principal, working at Assumption and Holy Names high schools.
Talach said the Basilians knew in 1996 that Marshall had abused almost 90 boys over his career, with the first instances occurring and reported to the Basilians in 1947.
“This is going to help everybody,” said Talach, who is currently representing two victims from Windsor. “It’s going to help victims who were victimized, and it’s going to help present and future generations face more vigilant institutions. I think this heightened society standard in what schools and churches and organizations are expected to do to prevent and stamp out abuse.”