2 Dec 2010

Compensation inadequate say some victims of sex abuse by Anglican minister at school with "culture of abuse", deal at risk

CBC News - Canada April 23, 2010

Quebec school sex abuse settlement threatened

Bishop's College School deal would be rejected if 3 or more victims opt out

A compensation deal for the alleged victims of a sexual abuse scandal at Bishop's College School in Quebec's Eastern Townships is at risk of collapsing, CBC News has learned.

At least 30 former students have joined a $58-million class action lawsuit against the school, alleging they were molested by an Anglican minister who was a teacher and housemaster at the school in Lennoxville, Que., in the 1950s and 1960s.

An out of court settlement between the school and the lawyer representing some claimants is to be presented to a Quebec Superior Court judge on April 30.

But, under the terms of the settlement, the deal becomes null and void if three or more of the alleged victims opt out of the agreement.

CBC News has reached at least three claimants who are calling the monetary terms of the settlement unacceptable.

The details of the agreement are confidential, but sources close to the case confirm it is substantially less than the $5 million the Selwyn House school in Montreal offered victims of the sexual abuse scandal at that school, which was approved by the court in January 2009.
Culture of abuse

"It is totally unacceptable. That's a slap in the face," said one alleged victim who now lives in British Columbia.

A second claimant, who lives in Alberta, described the deal as "dead on arrival."

The claimants identities are protected under a court order.

"Our youth has been robbed," said another alleged victim, who lives in Montreal and said he will also reject the settlement. "It is only fair that in our old age we are compensated for what was done to us."

The lawsuit alleges a culture of abuse reigned at the school that involved former housemaster the late Rev. Harold Forster, some teachers and senior students .

In an interview with CBC News, the Montreal-based claimant described how Forster made him come to his room in the early hours of the morning and ordered him to take off his clothes.

"I was terrified," said the man. "I didn't know what was expected. He put me over his lap."

The man said the minister then struck him on the backside with a hairbrush. The punishment was followed by sexual touching.

As a result of the abuse, the man said he suffered from panic attacks.

Other victims tell similar stories. Affidavits filed in court detail lifelong struggles with depression, severe anxiety and substance abuse.

Officials at Bishop's College School said they are doing their best to close a difficult chapter for the boarding school.

"From the beginning we've been seeking dialogue, reconciliation and resolution, and the settlement will allow us to redouble those efforts," said Kurt Johnson, chairman of the board.

"It has been a trying time for the school, dealing with issues and allegations that arose nearly a half a century ago," said Johnson.

"The challenge for the school has been to balance the interests of the students who are at the school now and future students of BCS with those who were at the school in the past and who claim to have been aggrieved."

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Montreal Gazette - April 26, 2010

Bishop's reaches out-of-court settlement in sex abuse case

By Hubert Bauch, The Gazette

MONTREAL – An out-of-court agreement in a class-action lawsuit has been reached between Bishop's College School and lawyers representing more than three dozen former students who claim they were physically and sexually abused at the private Lennoxville boarding school, but the deal may fall through.

The agreement will be formally registered before a Quebec Court judge on Friday, and whether it stands or falls will be determined at a hearing in late August. It could be voided if enough plaintiffs deem it insufficient for the school to back out of the deal.

Bryan McPhadden said 42 former students have contacted his Toronto law firm to join in the suit launched against the school in 2006 with claims that they were abused by college staff and other students in the 1950s and '60s when it was an all-boys' institution.

The firm previously won a $5-million settlement from Montreal private school Selwyn House for former students with similar claims.

The school could back out of the agreement if between three and five of the plaintiffs turn it down at the August hearing.

"Typically these agreements have what are called tipover rates," McPhadden said. "One of the reasons, if you're a defendant, is that you want to put a fence around the problem, that this will be the end of it. You don't want a bunch of people to opt out and pursue their own individual claims."

He declined to give details of the agreement as it stands, but other sources said it is significantly less than the $15 million initially claimed and also substantially short of the Selwyn House settlement.

The names of the plaintiffs in the suit are protected by court order, but some have spoken confidentially to the media and called the agreement unacceptable. One called it "a slap in the face" while another deemed it "dead on arrival."

"Our youth has been robbed," another dissident told the CBC.

The claimants say that as a result of the alleged abuse they have suffered from panic attacks, severe depression and anxiety, substance abuse and an inability to sustain relationships.

The only alleged abuser named in the suit is Rev. Harold Forster, who served at the school from 1958-62 as a teacher, chaplain, choir master and house master. He died in a British train crash in 1967.

Kurt Johnson, chairman of the BCS board of directors, has said the school is doing its best to answer the charges.

"From the beginning we've been seeking dialogue, reconciliation and resolution and a settlement would allow us to redouble those efforts. It has been a trying time for the school, dealing with issues and allegations that arose nearly half a century ago."

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