2 Oct 2008

Top court restores sexual assault finding against Oblate brother

CBC - October 2, 2008

Canada's highest court has restored a finding of civil liability against an Oblate brother who was sued for sexual abuse by a former student at a residential school in B.C.

Ian Hugh McDougall, a teacher at the school, was originally found liable in B.C. Supreme Court, but the judgment was overturned by the B.C. Court of Appeal.

In reversing that ruling, the Supreme Court of Canada found that the Appeal Court justices were wrong in ruling that the judge at the original trial should have applied a higher standard of proof than "a balance of probabilities."

Lawyer Allan Donovan, who represented the victim, said Thursday the ruling sends an important message to adults who were victims of child abuse.

Donovan said most child abuse happens in private, and the higher burden sought by the B.C. Court of Appeal could discourage victims from coming forward.

"That case, if it had been left unaltered from the Court of Appeal, would have put a huge bar, not just in front of residential schools claims, but in front of anyone who was coming forward with childhood sexual abuse claims, which unfortunately is all too common," Donovan said.

The victim from the south coastal B.C. community of Sechelt, who cannot be identified, said he was raped by McDougall several times while he was a student at the school.

He came forward in 2000, three decades after being sexually assaulted between 1966 and 1974.

In 2007, the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled that the testimony of adult victims about events that happened during childhood require independent corroboration.

"Such evidence may not be available, especially when the alleged incidents took place decades earlier," Justice Marshall Rothstein wrote in the 7-0 Supreme Court ruling Thursday.

"It must be recognized that the task of trial judges assessing evidence in such cases is very difficult indeed," Rothstein wrote.

"However, that does not open the door to an appellate court — being removed from the testimony and not seeing the witnesses — to reassess the credibility of the witnesses."

This article was found at:


No comments:

Post a Comment