Congregation reaches $18 mill sex abuse settlement
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. …