MONTREAL — Lawyers say a $28-million settlement has been reached for more than 375 sexual abuse victims of Quebec-based Catholic religious order the Clerics of St-Viateur.
Montreal law firm Arsenault, Dufresne and Wee said Thursday the settlement must be approved by the Quebec Superior Court during a Feb. 17 hearing.
The law firm says the class action was filed on Nov. 14, 2017, and includes more than 375 victims to date.
Brian Ford, a boarding school student in the 1980s at Collège Bourget in Rigaud, Que., west of Montreal, was the lead plaintiff.
The request was granted by the Quebec Superior Court in April 2019, and it mainly involved acts that allegedly occurred at Collège Bourget, but also in at least twenty other establishments from 1935 to the present day.
These victims, mostly men aged 60 and older, are former students of schools and residences that were managed by the congregation of the Clerics of St-Viateur.
Following next month's hearing, the members of the class action will present a confidential claim to former judge Claude Champagne, who has been appointed arbitrator. As well, the congregation will send a letter of apology to each person who will obtain compensation.
Lawyer Justin Wee said about 10 victims came forward initially, but he said many others joined them after they overcame some of the difficulties associated with sexual abuse.
"That's what we really need to highlight today, the courage of the victims," Wee said in an interview.
"Since 2017, when the case started, and it's a great relief for all those victims who have been waiting for this happy ending, and I think it demonstrates again that a class action for sexual assault offers great accessibility to justice," he added.
"These 375 victims at least will not have to testify in court, to be cross-examined, will not have to bring an individual lawsuit."
Meanwhile, criminal proceedings are ongoing against individual members of the congregation.
Last July, priest Jean Pilon of the Clerics de St-Viateur was sentenced to three and a half years in prison for criminal acts of a sexual nature against a dozen victims — boys and girls who were minors at the time of the alleged acts.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2022.
The Canadian Press