Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Judge Approves $32.7-Million Deal for Ex-Residents of Two Ontario Institutions

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Judge Approves $32.7-Million Deal for Ex-Residents of Two Ontario Institutions

Article excerpt

Judge OKs compensation deal over institutions

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TORONTO - A $32.7-million settlement of a class-action suit is the best and fairest way to compensate victims of two now-closed Ontario institutions for the developmentally disabled, an Ontario judge decided on Monday.

Lawyers for both the plaintiffs and provincial government had urged Ontario Superior Court Justice Barbara Conway to approve the deal, which also includes a formal apology from the premier.

"While more is always better, it is a compromise," Conway said.

"The settlements are fair, reasonable and in the best interests of the class members."

The deal reached in December calls for a minimum payment of $2,000 to members of the class and a maximum of $35,000.

Retired Supreme Court of Canada justice Ian Binney would review the more complex claims.

The class actions were launched on behalf of about 4,300 former residents of the Rideau Regional Centre in Smiths Falls, Ont., which opened in 1951, and the Southwestern Regional Centre near Chatham, Ont., which opened in 1961.

The purpose of the institutions was to house people labelled "retarded." The thinking was that residents -- most of whom began living at the facilities as children -- were better off than living with their families.

However, many of the thousands of residents suffered physical and sexual abuse at the overcrowded and understaffed prison-like institutions.

"I have suffered to this day," former Rideau resident Doug Smith told the court.

"It kind of ruined my life a little bit. It's very painful."

Government ministers and their deputies were made aware of the poor conditions but complaints fell on deaf ears, court heard.

"Many thousands of people suffered harm for no reason," lawyer Kirk Baert, speaking for the complainants, told the court.

"None of these people had done anything wrong. None of them deserved this treatment."

The proposed settlement is similar to a $32.7-million deal reached last year over the Huronia Regional Centre in Orillia, Ont. …

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