3:27 pm, August 12th, 2014
Credits: ANNIE T ROUSSEL/QMI AGENCY
QUEBEC CITY – A Catholic order has agreed to pay $20 million to at least 100 former students molested by priests between 1960 and 1987.
Nine priests were accused of abusing children at Saint-Alphonse college east of Quebec City. Some of the priests have since died.
The college is associated with the internationally revered shrine at the Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre Basilica, located northeast of the city.
A lawyer for the Redemptorist order at the centre of the scandal confirmed the cash settlement Tuesday.
Last month the Catholic group lost a class action lawsuit filed by former students.
Instead of appealing the verdict, both sides spent the past week negotiating the settlement, which a judge must approve within 30 days.
“It was difficult,” said victim Frank Tremblay, who spearheaded the suit after he said a priest molested him 80 times as a child.
“But I’m glad. What’s happened here is a big deal.”
Tremblay will get $150,000 while other victims could claim at least $75,000 each.
The settlement follows a hearing last fall in Quebec City, where more than a dozen former students testified against the priests.
One of the priests named in the lawsuit, Raymond-Marie Lavoie, is in prison after pleading guilty in 2011 to sexually abusing 13 boys at the college, including Tremblay.
Lavoie entered the plea just as his trial was set to begin.
He said he committed the acts when he was a teacher, supervisor and dormitory custodian.
Redemptorist Order of Catholic Priests to pay sexual abuse victims $20M
Landmark out-of-court settlement highest in Quebec’s history for sexual abuse lawsuit
Posted: Aug 12, 2014 1:31 PM ET Last Updated: Aug 12, 2014 7:17 PM ET
The Redemptorist Order of Catholic Priests will pay $20 million to victims of sexual abuse at its St-Alphonse Seminary near Quebec City during the 1970s and ’80s.
Robert Kugler, the lawyer representing former students at the seminary, said the landmark out-of-court settlement is the largest ever paid in a class-action sexual abuse lawsuit in Quebec.
In July, Superior Court Judge Claude Bouchard ordered the Redemptorist Order, the St-Alphonse Seminary and Rev. Raymond-Marie Lavoie to pay at least $75,000 to each of the lawsuit’s 70 claimants.
The main claimant, Frank Tremblay, has spoken publicly about the abuse he suffered as a student at Séminaire Saint-Alphonse.
“I talked with a lot of the men yesterday and this morning. Some are happy, some are anxious, and some don’t know what will happen,” Tremblay told CBC’s Breakaway.
Tremblay launched the class-action lawsuit in 2010 against a former teacher at the seminary.
“It was the first time I came back to that period of my life. It put me in a nightmare. It was really difficult,” said Tremblay.
Tremblay said one of the most important aspects of his victory is that other claimants will not have to fight statutes of limitations, even though some of the abuses took place more than 30 years ago.
“The statutes of limitations are over for the Redemptorists, so it is a great, great victory for me,” said Tremblay.
“I won for all those men and I’m really proud of that,” he said.
Other victims have since come forward, bringing the number of total claimants to more than 100 — and counting.
“That number is likely to go up by a lot… We have tried to simplify the process to ensure that a maximum number of victims present claims,” Kugler told Radio-Canada.
Lawyers representing the men who attended the private boarding school in Saint-Anne-de-Beaupré as teenagers alleged there was systemic abuse and a cover-up at the school during the ’70s and ’80s.
Serge Létourneau, a lawyer in the case, said two of the alleged abusers were once principals at the school and also sat on the provincial executive committee of the Redemptorist Order.
In 2011, Lavoie pleaded guilty to sexually abusing 13 children and is serving a five-year sentence.
The Redemptorist religious order is probably best known in Canada for its association with the Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré shrine near Quebec City, a major tourist attraction and holy pilgrimage site for devout Catholics. Now the congregation is in the spotlight for a dark chapter in its past.
The Catholic community has agreed to pay $20-million to people who were once schoolboys in its care in what is described as a record sexual-abuse settlement in Quebec.
In a deal announced on Tuesday, the order approved settling a class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of abuse victims at the school during a 27-year span beginning in 1960. The students, all boys, were aged 12 to 16 at the time.
“This is a landmark case,” said Robert Kugler, a Montreal lawyer who represents the victims. “This is the highest amount that has ever been paid by a religious congregation in Quebec to settle a class action dealing with sexual abuse.”
The suit was launched by former student Frank Tremblay against the school, the Redemptorist order, and priest Raymond-Marie Lavoie. Mr. Tremblay recounted that as a 13-year-old student, he sought out Mr. Lavoie after feeling anxious and unable to sleep one night; he ended up being assaulted three to five times a week for four months. (Mr. Lavoie, in a criminal trial, pleaded guilty in 2011 to sexually assaulting 13 boys at the school – the Séminaire Saint-Alphonse, subsequently named Collège Saint-Alphonse – while he was a dorm supervisor.)
Quebec Superior Court held the religious order responsible in a ruling in July. The court decision recounts a harrowing catalogue of abuse carried out by the Redemptorist priests against young boys entrusted to their care, from sexual touching to sodomy.
The private school was a well-regarded institution next to the basilica in Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré. It drew many children from families of modest means, drawn to its reputation for high educational standards.
The abuse spread upward in the school hierarchy to include two school directors, who also turned a deaf ear to the students’ laments, according to the judge’s decision. When one complained about the predatory behaviour of two priests, the director retorted that the student should consider himself lucky to get so much attention and affection; he then reminded the boy that his mother had not paid his bill for three months.
Two other students who complained about abuse were threatened with expulsion.
The judge in the class action, Claude Bouchard, said the Redemptorist order could not have been unaware of the sexual predation by its priests.
“We are not talking about isolated acts committed by a few priests,” he said in addressing the order’s responsibility. He cited “repeated acts” by nine priests against more than 70 students during more than two decades. Six of the priests have since died.
“Whether it was in the dorm, the nearby priest’s bedroom … in his school office, infirmary, school hallway, in the refectory or in a cottage belonging to the school a few kilometres away, is it possible that sexual assaults perpetrated in these different places could have occurred without the Redemptorists being informed one way or the other?” Justice Bouchard asked.
“The court doesn’t believe it,” he concluded.
More than 70 former students have joined the class action and more are expected to come forward.
The $20-million settlement will be submitted to the court for approval within 30 days.
A lawyer for the order, Pierre Baribeau, told Radio-Canada that the congregation was “relieved” about the compensation arrangement, and its members were also relieved that the case is coming to a close.