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“This collective action has brought to light stories of nameless horror,” one of the lawyers involved in the class action says.
A Quebec Superior Court judge has approved a $14.8-million settlement agreement reached between the Montreal archdiocese and victims of sexual abuse.
In a 41-page decision rendered in early July, Judge Donald Bisson wrote that for many of the victims involved in the proceedings, the class-action lawsuit “represents the fight of their lives.”
“For many members, this is the only opportunity to have their voices heard and to have the atrocious events they have lived through recognized,” Bisson wrote. “Events that have marked them forever.”
The class action was filed in 2019, arguing the religious body failed to prevent the assaults over decades of inaction and instead “opted for a culture of silence.”
The settlement between both sides was announced in April. It seeks to compensate victims of sexual assaults committed by diocesan priests, but not priests who belong to specific religious orders, under the Montreal archdiocese’s responsibility since 1940.
According to the law firm behind the class action, Arsenault Dufresne Wee Avocats, the suit now includes nearly 80 victims. Those who haven’t yet registered for the action have until Oct. 22, 2023 to do so.
“This collective action has brought to light stories of nameless horror. We salute the courage of the victims for daring to denounce and we thank them for their trust,” lawyer Alain Arsenault wrote in a statement issued Wednesday.
“We were pleased to note the openness of Montreal bishop Christian Lépine throughout the process,” Arsenault added. “We hope that other religious organizations will be inspired by his attitude.”
The lead plaintiff in the class action was a 33-year-old victim of Montreal-area priest Brian Boucher.
Boucher was sentenced to eight years in prison in 2019 after being found guilty of sexually assaulting one youth and pleading guilty to sexually abusing another, the man in question.
As of March, more than 40 members of the church were targeted in the class action.
In his decision, Bisson reiterated that a class action was the right approach to allow victims to access justice.
He noted many victims would either not have the resources necessary to seek compensation on their own or could have been intimidated by facing the archdiocese alone.
The judge also noted the law firm has established a procedure allowing victims to access the support they need through the proceedings, ensuring “that victims are not left alone with the recollection of their assaults.”
The Montreal archdiocese did not immediately return a request for comment on Wednesday.
This report will be updated.
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