MONTREAL — Quebec’s Brothers of the Sacred Heart agreed to pay 60 million Canadian dollars (US$48.5 million) to settle two class action lawsuits on clerical sexual abuse.
The suits, files in 2016 and 2019, were settled out of court at a conference presided over by retired Judge Claudette Picard. The agreement must be approved by the Superior Court.
The two class actions “targeted no less than 90 aggressors,” said Pierre Boivin, one of the victims’ lawyers. The aggressors — several of them are named in the applications to institute proceedings — are religious and ex-religious. Many are now deceased.
In a statement issued June 29, the Quebec leaders of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart made a point of officially apologizing to the victims.
“Any form of abuse is in flagrant contradiction with the values and educational mission of religious communities who want to establish a relationship of trust with the young people they educate,” said Brother Donald Bouchard, provincial superior of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart.
“This type of behavior undermines our work of education and reflects badly on all those who have carried it out with dignity and integrity,” he added. The Brothers of the Sacred Heart have operated colleges and schools in many cities and towns in Quebec.
“To all the victims, the community apologizes for the abuse allegedly caused by religious educators,” said Bouchard.
“It is our hope and desire that the victims will be able to close a painful chapter in their lives, knowing that nothing can ever erase the wrongs that were done to you,” he added.
Eric Simard, the lawyer for the religious order, explained that the Brothers of the Sacred Heart wanted, through this out-of-court settlement, to arrange a “fair, efficient and rapid” compensation process. However, this agreement will not prevent the congregation from suing the various educational institutions that hired religious when the congregation left the management of the schools it operated. The hope is that they will participate financially in the settlement.
“Sexual abuse allegedly committed in places and institutions where the supervision of attendants was the responsibility of lay management will eventually be the subject of a debate on the sharing of responsibility,” said Simard.
But regardless of the outcome of these potential appeals, they will have “no impact” on the overall amount that will be distributed among the victims, said Boivin.
“Nearly 200 victims have already contacted us,” confirmed Boivin, of the law firm Kugler Kandestin. “And we expect the same number to come forward” once the agreement is publicized and approved.
The Canadian province of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart currently has 187 members.
Gloutnay is a staffer at Presence info, Montreal.