22 Jan 2011

Judge allows first class-action suit against a Catholic order in Quebec to proceed, hundreds may have been abused

The Montreal Gazette - Canada November 25, 2010

Quebec judge allows class-action against religious order

Dozens of ex-students allege they were abused


A Superior Court Justice has given the go-ahead for former students of a Roman Catholic secondary school near Quebec City to sue the priests who allegedly sexually abused them.

Lawyer Pierre Boivin said it's the first time in Quebec a class-action suit has been filed against a religious order -Congregation du Tres-Saint-Redempteur -and the amount could reach into the millions of dollars.

So far, dozens of alleged victims of the former boarding school, Seminaire St. Alphonse, have come forward, but Boivin said he believes once word spreads, it could reach into the hundreds. "We think it's just the tip of the iceberg," he said.

The lead plaintiff in the suit is seeking $750,000 in damages for the sexual, emotional, physical and psychological abuse he says he suffered several times a week at the hands of a priest in charge of the students' dormitory.

Rev. Raymond-Marie Lavoie, 70, was arrested last December by the Surete du Quebec and charged with 18 sexual crimes involving 11 minors. His preliminary hearing is set for Jan. 31 in Quebec City.

The suit covers all students of Seminaire Saint-Alphonse, in Ste. Anne de Beaupre, who were sexually abused by priests of the Congregation du Tres-Saint-Redempteur between 1960 and 1987. The priests had nothing to do with the school after 1987, and it is now a private school called College St. Alphonse.

The lead plaintiff, who attended the college between 1981 and 1985, alleges the abuse took place in the school's dormitory and in a vacation home used by the priests in St. Title des Caps.

The suit, which is asking for at least $100,000 in damages for each victim, alleges the priests conspired among themselves, discussing which students they would abuse.

At least five priests were involved in pedophilia at the school, which had between 200 and 250 students, the suit claims. One of the accused priests was Rev. Francois Plourde, the school's former director, who has since died.

Former students of College Notre Dame and College St. Cesaire, which was run by Brothers of Holy Cross, are awaiting authorization from Quebec Superior Court to sue their alleged abusers. Dozens of men have come forward, saying they were sexually abused by brothers teaching at the college, which was also a boarding school for boys.

Boivin said he's confident the Quebec City case will go to trial in the next couple of years.

This article was found at:



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


Holy Cross Brothers stand accused

Sexual abuse by the Brothers of Holy Cross ruined lives of victims

Dark side of the 'chaste' life

Plea for help from survivors of abuse at prestigious Quebec Catholic school rejected because of class-action suit

Current wave of global Catholic scandals just tip of iceberg says Quebec advocate who predicts many more to come



  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. Sir,

    In class action suits, is there any way the victims can keep their identity secret from the press and society in general?

    1. Different rules may apply in different jurisdictions. If you are considering joining a class action I suggest you ask that question of the law firm conducting the action.