19 Jan 2011

Class-action suit against Holy Cross brothers in Quebec amended to add two more plaintiffs from second college run by order

Montreal Gazette - Canada November 19, 2010

Abuse class action expands to second college

A request seeking permission to launch a class-action suit on behalf of victims of alleged sexual abuse at Collège Notre Dame in the 1970s and ’80s by brothers of the Congregation of Holy Cross has been amended to include two more plaintiffs – one of them from a second college run by the order.

The new plaintiffs, identified only by their initials – F.L. and L.R.A. – now appear on the request, along with that of the family of the late René Cornellier Jr., who attended Collège Notre Dame in the 1970s for four years starting when he was 12.

L.R.A. also attended Collège Notre Dame between 1967 and 1974 and alleges he was sexually assaulted by one of the brothers at the school. However, in the 1980s, F.L. was a student at Collège St. Césaire, a school near Granby also run by the Congregation of Holy Cross. In the amended request, F.L. alleges he was sexually assaulted by a brother at Collège St. Césaire during the year he attended the school.

The congregation sold Collège St. Césaire in 1991. It closed its doors in 1998.

The allegations of abuse at Collège Notre Dame first came to light in an award-winning series of articles by reporter Sue Montgomery in The Gazette published two years ago. Other media followed the story, most recently the investigative news program Enquête. The Congregation of Holy Cross issued an apology following the broadcast, and Montreal police launched an investigation into allegations of abuse, inviting anyone who believed they had been victimized to contact them or their local police department.

The hearing for the class-action suit, which includes all Quebec residents who attended Collège Notre Dame between 1960 and 2001 and Collège St. Césaire between 1960 and 1991, is scheduled for Dec. 13.

This article was found at:

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  1. Order of Quebec’s Brother André admits to sex abuse, agrees to $18-million payout

    by INGRID PERITZ October 06, 2011

    The Congregation of the Holy Cross is one of Quebec’s most high-profile religious orders, its name associated with the landmark St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal and the name of Brother André, the Holy Cross doorman who became a saint.

    But on Thursday the Roman Catholic congregation made headlines for scandal, not glory. The order, whose roots date to the French Revolution and whose clergy were entrusted with the education of the sons of Quebec’s best families, agreed to pay up to $18-million to former students who were sexually abused in its care over a span of decades.

    The congregation also agreed to issue a blunt apology. It admitted to the suffering caused by abusive teachers and staff in positions of authority and said, “such acts should have never happened.” “Some members of our Congregation have broken their vows and failed in their mission,” Jean-Pierre Aumont, Canadian provincial superior of the Congregation of Holy Cross, said in a statement. “As leader and representative of this Congregation, I am deeply pained by these transgressions.”

    The payout in the out-of-court settlement was described as the largest in Quebec for a religious congregation, and was greeted with a measure of relief by former students who have been speaking out for years about abuse. The best-known of the institutions involved in the abuses is Collège Notre Dame, a greystone-sheathed boarding school across the street from the imposing St. Joseph’s Oratory; both institutions still belong to the Holy Cross order. (Catholic brothers no longer teach at the private school, however; as for St. André, he died in 1937, decades before the abuses cited in the lawsuit).

    Sébastien Richard was sexually abused by a priest at the age of 13 while getting math tutoring at Notre Dame in the 1970s. A former choirboy, he says the sexual touching, though he thought little of it at the time, led to years of behavioural problems and difficulty dealing with authority. “This settlement is important so that we break the silence in Quebec,” said Mr. Richard, 48. “Unfortunately with our strong Catholic past there are a lot of people who were victims of abuse. We want to tell people who are ashamed of what happened that they are victims, and they shouldn’t be ashamed.”

    The settlement applies to victims who attended Notre Dame from 1950 to 2001, along with two other schools outside Montreal during shorter periods. Claimants will be eligible for between $10,000 and $250,000 each depending on the extent of the abuse – from touching to full sexual encounters – as well as the after-effects.

    Lawyer Alain Arsenault, who represents the victims, described the settlement as historic, both for the size of the payout and the number of former students expected to come forward to file claims, which could reach 85. “The congregation has recognized that there were pedophiles among them, and that has never been done before,” he said in an interview. “This order is one of the most important in Quebec. It’s Brother André, it’s St. Joseph’s Oratory. It has moral and religious prestige.”

    The existence of widespread abuse and the silence of the Catholic brothers came to light after an exposé by The Gazette in Montreal in 2008. Robert Cornellier’s brother, René Jr., attended Notre Dame in the early 1970s and fruitlessly denounced sexual abuses he suffered to the school authorities in 1993. But he never told his family and led a troubled life before his death in 1994. On Thursday, Robert, tears filling his eyes, said the congregation’s apology was perhaps the most important victory.

    “They’re finally recognizing, after 18 years, that my brother was a victim, and that they are guilty in some way for what they did,” he said. “For us that may be the most important thing today. His death wasn’t in vain.”


  2. Church settles with Quebec sex-abuse victims

    by Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press July 3, 2013

    MONTREAL -- A judge has signed off on a landmark agreement to compensate victims of sex abuse that occurred for decades within a Roman Catholic organization in Quebec.

    While walking away from news crews outside the courtroom, one victim said the grieving could finally begin.

    The $18-million mediated settlement, the largest in Quebec and one lawyers have said could even be the largest ever in Canada, was officially enacted as Quebec Superior Court Justice Claude Auclair signed the agreement Wednesday.

    But there were no cheers as Auclair signed the document -- only silence as a five-year legal odyssey came to a close.

    Victims will be paid by July 24 and will be awarded an indemnity ranging from $10,000 and $250,000, depending on the type of abuse they endured at three Quebec institutions. The agreement stems from an out-of-court mediated settlement, spurred by the threat of a class-action lawsuit.

    Victims are still angry that many of the 223 claimants were forced to make their case before adjudicators and describe the abuse they faced.

    The class-action lawsuit was formally launched in 2008 and a settlement was reached in October 2011.

    The rest of the legal wrangling took nearly 18 months and lawyers lamented the slow process of finalizing the deal. One lawyer said more than half the claims -- 126 out of 206 -- went before an adjudicator.

    "The process should have taken three months and it took 15," said Alain Arsenault, one of the lawyers that represented the victims. He accused lawyers for the congregation of using stalling tactics and citing prior criminal history.

    "They contested with no proof but they contested all the same," Arsenault fumed. "They deposited documents that had nothing to do with the abuse ... but they never brought any proof to deny the claims except in one case."

    The Congregation of Holy Cross issued a release expressing condolences for decades of abuse at three Quebec institutions that are now defunct -- Montreal's College Notre-Dame between 1950 and 2001; College Saint-Cesaire, located south of Montreal, between 1950 and 1991; and Ecole Notre Dame in the Lower St. Lawrence region, between 1959 and 1964.

    Jean-Pierre Aumont, the Canadian provincial superior of the congregation, apologized again on Wednesday "for the suffering caused by the teachers and staff who held a position of trust and authority with students, and my deepest sympathy to the victims of such abuse."

    "Such actions should never have happened," he said in a statement.

    Victims hope the agreement will lead to other ones in Quebec and elsewhere for sex-abuse victims from other congregations. They hope other diocese and religious orders might also settle and avoid lengthy legal battles in the future.

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  3. Sebastien Richard, a spokesman for the victims, said they had a message for other groups: "Keep fighting."

    In the end 206 victims, and in some cases their parents, will wind up sharing nearly $13 million.

    The other $5 million will go to lawyers' fees, adjudicators' honorariums, and other expenses.

    Seventeen people's claims have not been accepted.

    One of the victims' lawyers, Gilles Gareau, accused the religious order's lawyers of abusing the adjudicator process.

    It meant having to recount in detail all of the crimes committed against them, said Gareau. He cited the case of one man, now 72, who had to describe horrific acts in front of six people.

    "It's not an easy thing -- I had to prepare him judicially and psychologically and I had to pick up the pieces after the hearing," Gareau said.

    "I had to escort one of them because I was afraid he was going to kill himself on the way out."
    Arsenault said he was satisfied but concerned about the impact on the victims. The settlement was designed to avoid having them relive their experiences.

    "(There were) those who had to go before an adjudicator ... and explain in detail the nature of the abuse to strangers when there was no one to contradict their claims," said Arsenault.

    He estimated that 97 per cent of the cases that went before an adjudicator were accepted.

    Holy Cross' Aumont had already apologized once in a video posted in 2011. On Wednesday, a statement sent via a public-relations firm expressed hope for a brighter future for victims.

    "The damage has been done, and we were committed to act diligently to repair it," Aumont said. "We hope that the (agreement) helps the victims make a fresh start, that they heal as best they can from the injuries they suffered and can work wholeheartedly toward their future."

    A lawyer for the congregation said the adjudication step was designed to give equal treatment to all victims in a reasonable time frame.

    "The indemnification process is finalized and at this stage the Holy Cross congregation hopes that the victims will be able to go on with their lives," said lawyer Eric Simard.

    Richard said the money may not help some victims, who have been overwhelmed by the psychological scars.

    Others have committed suicide. Many never came forward.

    "It's clear the 206 people we're talking about is a sad minority of the total number of victims," Richard said. "There were 40 aggressors identified by the victims and five of them are still alive today."


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