Class-action lawsuit seeking other alleged victims of Edmonton Anglican priest

Gordon William Dominey in the 1980s (left), and in 2016 (right.) (Supplied - image credit)
Gordon William Dominey in the 1980s (left), and in 2016 (right.) (Supplied - image credit)

The lawyer for a class-action lawsuit by men who allege they were sexually abused by an Anglican priest in an Edmonton youth jail is trying to get in touch with any other potential victims.

Last year, the Court of Appeal of Alberta overturned a lower court's ruling, certifying the class action – allowing the men to go ahead with their collective attempt to sue the Government of Alberta and the Synod of the Anglican Diocese of Edmonton.

"Many were quite clear that they would only come forward if it were certified as a class action. They did not want to do anything on their own because they lacked the capacity," lawyer Avnish Nanda said Thursday.

Rev. Gordon Dominey died in 2019, prior to being tried on dozens of criminal charges for alleged sexual offences against 13 men who were youth inmates at the Edmonton Youth Development Centre in the 1980s.

It's alleged the priest, who worked at the youth jail, abused the boys in the jail's swimming pool, and during counselling sessions and excursions.

With Dominey's death, the criminal charges never proceeded, but a civil lawsuit initiated in 2017 has carried on as Dominey's alleged victims, alleging that the province and the church failed to provide a safe environment, free from abuse.

So far, about a dozen men have been in touch, but Nanda said he believes there are 15 to 20 people who may be alleged victims, based on police reports and other disclosures made during the various legal proceedings around the case.

He said it's been difficult to reach some of the people believed to be class members as many are vulnerable, and living in precarious situations.

"We know that there are folks who are still incarcerated. We know that there are folks who are in very difficult circumstances, living on the streets and living with a variety of substance use issues," he said.

Nanda said some of the class members who have come forward were not among the named complainants in the criminal case that was set to go to trial prior to Dominey's death.

Class members are all automatically included in the lawsuit. If they want to opt-out or are pursuing their own litigation, the deadline is May 31.

The next step in the process will be a common issues trial, where Court of King's Bench Justice John Henderson will determine what issues are shared among class members.

But Nanda is hopeful that the church and province will offer to settle with the men. He said the lawsuit was initiated seven years ago, and that many of the men have struggled and carried the memories of alleged abuse with them for decades.

"Rather than have these folks kind of continue to relive their trauma, delaying the compensation they're entitled to, I think it's in the interest of everyone — particularly taxpayers for the Alberta government or members of the Anglican church – rather than pay lawyer bills, just sit down and kind of negotiate a settlement."

Both the province and synod declined to comment on the case this week.