Diocese of Moncton suing Co-Operators Insurance for $4.2M

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The Diocese of Moncton wants Co-Operators General Insurance to pay $4.2 million for abuse claims

CBC News Posted: Dec 10, 2015 9:19 PM AT   Last Updated: Dec 11, 2015 12:01 PM AT

By Jennifer Choi

Photo of Father Camille Leger who is accused of sexual abuse while he was serving in the Diocese of Moncton.

Photo of Father Camille Leger who is accused of sexual abuse while he was serving in the Diocese of Moncton. (CBC)

The Diocese of Moncton has filed a civil lawsuit against Co-Operators General Insurance to recoup $4.2 million dollars it paid out to victims of sexual abuse.

This case comes on the heels of another civil lawsuit in which the Diocese of Bathurst is seeking $3.3 million from Aviva Insurance.

Judge Stephen McNally is the presiding judge in both cases. The arguments in both cases are similar.

Both dioceses participated in a confidential compensation process run by Michel Bastarache. The former Supreme Court justice interviewed approximately two-hundred victims and awarded them compensation based on the age of the victim when assaulted, the severity of abuse and the frequency of abuse.

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Former Supreme Court Justice, Michel Bastarache was in charge of a confidential compensation process for abuse victims in the Bathurst and Moncton diocese. ((Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press))

Court documents obtained by CBC revealed that the Diocese of Moncton has paid a total of $10.6 million to victims of abuse through the Bastarache process.

The diocese claims that $4.2 million dollars of that total falls within the time period in which the church had an insurance policy with the Co-operators.

That policy dates from 1977 to 1999.

Bastarache awarded compensation to 109 people who were abused by priests in the Diocese of Moncton.

The victims named multiple priests as abusers including Father Camille Leger, Father Irois Despres and Father Yvon Arsenault. Arsenault now faces criminal charges in connection to alleged assaults.

Co-Operators Insurance states it has no obligation to help the Diocese of Moncton pay for the Bastarache process which it considers “voluntary”.

In its statement of defence, Co-Operators claims the church is “excluded from coverage.”

The diocese argument is based on the language of its insurance policy which it claims only had a significant change in 1996, when Co-Operators excluded sexual abuse from its coverage.

It argues that based on the wording of its policy before 1996, “bodily injury caused intentionally by or at the direction of the insured,” the diocese itself is is not liable.

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Father Yvon Arsenault faces allegations of sexual abuse dating back 40 years. (CBC)

The church claims it did not intentionally cause bodily harm, rather it was the priests who were the abusers.

Co-Operators argues the diocese committed an intentional act when it failed to supervise and discipline members of the clergy who committed the abuses.

The insurance company also believes the church had an obligation to advise them as soon as they became aware of abuses.

The diocese argues that victims of sexual abuse did not come forward to claim damages until the 1990s and 2000s.

“There is no wording in the policy which called for the Archdiocese to inform the insurers of any potential claims of abuse.”

Judge McNally will hear from the lawyers representing both sides at the Court of Queen’s Bench in Moncton on Monday.

The Diocese of Moncton is requesting to skip a trial and have the judge make a ruling.

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