Articles and documents regarding the reorganization of the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth, Nova Scotia

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Bill held after abuse victims’ lawyer questions reorganization of church diocese

by The Canadian Press

Posted Oct 24, 2017 3:40 pm EDT

Last Updated Oct 24, 2017 at 5:20 pm EDT

HALIFAX – A Nova Scotia legislature committee has shelved a private members bill that would reorganize the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth amid concerns from a lawyer representing sexual abuse victims.

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said the local bills committee acted properly when it voted Tuesday to hold the bill after a presentation by John McKiggan, who represents hundreds of sexual assault victims who were abused by priests.

The Halifax lawyer told the committee he believes the bill would allow the archdiocese to divest itself of assets and place them into sub-corporations held by individual parishes.

McKiggan suggests the intent for the proposed change to century-old legislation was to “make it more difficult for survivors of priest sexual abuse to be able to receive just and fair compensation for their injuries.”

“In the future, if a victim of sexual abuse by a priest obtains a judgment against the archdiocese, the archdiocese may very well say that it has no assets available to pay the judgment,” McKiggan told the committee.

He said the archdiocese could argue that any judgment wouldn’t be enforceable against individual parishes because they would be separate legal corporations.

A lawyer for the archdiocese told the committee that wasn’t the bill’s intent.

McNeil later said that an assumption had been made about the bill and the government would re-examine it to ensure there are no unintended consequences contained in it.

“I think it’s important that we take a pause and look at the bill,” McNeil said.

The premier was asked whether he was concerned by McKiggan’s allegations.

“It was never the intent and certainly would not be a bill that would be brought forward by the government,” he said.

The bill was sponsored by Immigration Minister Lena Metlege Diab, who said she was unaware of any concerns similar to those voiced by McKiggan.

“I had no idea,” said Metlege Diab, who added she was surprised by what she heard during the committee hearing.

“That’s why the committee had questions and rightfully sent it back for further review,” she said.

In 2012, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Antigonish in Nova Scotia agreed to a $16-million compensation settlement for 125 confirmed and alleged victims of sexual abuse.

The diocese put about 150 properties up for sale. More than 100 parishes were drained of their savings.

Raymond Lahey, the former bishop of the diocese, had helped broker the settlement in August 2009. That came weeks before he was charged with importing child pornography into Canada. He was later convicted, sentenced to time served, and defrocked by the Holy See in Rome.

The settlement provided $13 million to alleged and confirmed victims of sexual abuse at the hands of priests who worked for the diocese between 1950 and September 2009. The rest covered legal and administrative fees.

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Halifax archdiocese bill on hold because of ‘serious, serious implications’

Halifax lawyer representing sexual abuse victims suggests law would shelter assets

CBC News

Posted: Oct 24, 2017 2:11 PM ATLast Updated: Oct 24, 2017 2:11 PM AT

By Jean Laroche,

A legislative committee has shelved a bill aimed at reorganizing the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth after a presentation by lawyer John McKiggan.

A legislative committee has shelved a bill aimed at reorganizing the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth after a presentation by lawyer John McKiggan. (Robert Short/CBC)

An all-party committee of the Nova Scotia Legislature that usually handles non-controversial bills and potential laws of strictly local concern has unanimously agreed to shelve a bill aimed at reorganizing the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth.

The committee voted to hold the bill at this stage of the lawmaking process following a presentation by lawyer John McKiggan, who has represented and continues to represent hundreds of sexual assault victims who were abused by priests.

In his presentation to the committee, McKiggan said, “I would suggest the only reason for this proposed change to legislation that has existed for over 100 years is to make it more difficult for survivors of priest sexual abuse to be able to receive just and fair compensation for their injuries.”

A lawyer acting on behalf of the archdiocese, Joel MacDonald, later told the committee that was not the intent, nor would the change protect the church organization from claims by victims.

“Should an abuse victim be entitled to compensation as the law stands, this act is not going to protect any assets from anything,” he said.

‘Serious implications’

The differing opinions caused even Liberal members of the private and local bills committee to agree to halt the process, even though Bill 30 was introduced by cabinet minister Lena Diab on behalf of the Catholic organization.

Keith Irving, MLA for Kings South, expressed concerns about the potential effects of the bill.

“The consequences or unintended consequences, I believe, have serious, serious implications that I think we have to proceed very cautiously with. And so I think, given the questions we’ve heard around the table, there’s strong support for the motion to defer,” he said before the vote.

John McKiggan, lawyer representing Bobby Hayes

Lawyer John McKiggan, who has represented sexual abuse victims, said he believes the bill would make it harder for victims of priest sexual abuse to receive compensation. (Brian Chisholm/CBC)

Outside the Red Chamber, McKiggan said he was happy with the decision to defer the bill. He also reiterated his concern about what the bill would mean to him and the people he represents.

“I’m a lawyer. I’m naturally suspicious,” he said. “I’ve sued this diocese many times. I’ve sued other diocese many times. It is a very sad fact that time after time we have seen that persons in authority within the church have sought to protect the institution, the reputation of the institution, rather than protecting children in the parishes in the diocese.”

Chancellor reacts

But deacon Bob Britton, chancellor of the archdiocese, vehemently denied any attempt by the church to hide or shelter assets from legal action.

“Every bloody lawyer who I’ve ever talked to in this matter says no,” he told reporters in response to being asked if this bill would shelter assets. “The courts have said no. Do you want me to say no again? It does not shelter in any way, shape, or form, anything!”

Immigration Minister Lena Diab said she knew nothing about the concerns expressed by McKiggan before agreeing to shepherd the bill through the legislature.

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24 October 2017: John McKiggan submission re Archdiocese Halifax Yarmouth reorganization

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HANSARD 

House of Assembly

Nova Scotia

19 October 2017

PRIVATE AND LOCAL BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER«» : The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. GEOFF MACLELLAN«» : Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 30.

Bill No. 30 – Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth Act.

MR. SPEAKER«» : The honourable member for Halifax Armdale.

HON. LENA DIAB«» : Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 30, an Act Respecting the Roman Catholic Archdiocesan Corporation of Halifax-Yarmouth and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth, be now read a second time.

This bill has the purpose of reorganizing the civil structure of the Roman Catholic Archdioceses of Halifax-Yarmouth. In accord with the proposed Act, the Archbishop will have the power to establish a parish as a separate corporation. Real and personal property held for the use and benefit of the parish and related liabilities will be vested in the parish corporation, which will thereafter have the responsibility for its management.

The existing Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of Halifax will be renamed, as per the bill, and continue to hold and deal with archdiocesan property, business, and temporal affairs that are not attributable to any particular parish.

[Page 1488]

Mr. Speaker, those are my remarks for the second reading of this bill. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER«» : The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 30. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Private and Local Bills.

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HANSARD 

House of Assembly

Nova Scotia

17 October 2017

 

HON. LENA DIAB « » : Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 30, an Act Respecting the Roman Catholic Archdiocesan Corporation of Halifax-Yarmouth and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth, be now read a second time.

This bill has the purpose of reorganizing the civil structure of the Roman Catholic Archdioceses of Halifax-Yarmouth. In accord with the proposed Act, the Archbishop will have the power to establish a parish as a separate corporation. Real and personal property held for the use and benefit of the parish and related liabilities will be vested in the parish corporation, which will thereafter have the responsibility for its management.

The existing Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of Halifax will be renamed, as per the bill, and continue to hold and deal with archdiocesan property, business, and temporal affairs that are not attributable to any particular parish.

[Page 1488]

Mr. Speaker, those are my remarks for the second reading of this bill. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER « » : The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 30. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Private and Local Bills.

The honourable Government House Leader.

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The Nova Scotia Legislature                          Members

Honourable Lena Metlege Diab (Liberal)

The Honourable Lena Diab was first elected to the Nova Scotia House of Assembly as MLA for Halifax Armdale in 2013 and was re-elected in 2017.

She has served as Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Provincial Secretary, Minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Police Complaints Commissioner, Minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Police Review Board, and as minister responsible for various acts which normally fall under the purview of the justice portfolio.

She is a lawyer and a small business owner.

She is a member of the Assembly Matters Committee.

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