Coquitlam parish priest accused of sexual abuse

A disabled woman alleged she was groomed and sexually abused as a pre-teen in the mid 1970s while attending Our Lady of Fatima Church in Coquitlam.

Identified in her notice of civil claim as L.V. – the plaintiff is claiming damages in a B.C. Supreme Court civil suit filed against the estate of the now-deceased Father Georges Chevrier.

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Vancouver and several other institutions associated with Chevrier’s work history are also named as defendants in the suit.

L.V.’s claim asserts that “As an infant member of the public,” she had the inherent right to live out her childhood and youth unaffected by the unhealthy, unsafe, and immoral interference and public nuisance of predatorial and systematic sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy.”

Chevrier was the parish priest at the Coquitlam church from 1971 to 1977. He died in 2003.

L.V. claims that between 1973 and 1977, starting when she was nine-years old, she was sexually abused and battered on numerous occasions by Chevrier on church and school grounds.

The raft of sexual allegations in court documents include various forms of physical and sexual assault ranging from groping to intercourse.

In one instance, two other men, whom L.V. believed to be priests, observed and participated in the abuse, according to the claim.

L.V. suffers from a congenital disability, and the civil claim states Chevrier was “deliberately targeting and exploiting the plaintiff’s pre-existing vulnerabilities arising from her troubles at home, pre-existing abuse, condition, overt kindness, smiles, acceptance, love and guidance.”

Chevrier’s grooming ranged from taking her out of catechism classes to make her feel ‘special,’ to threatening her family if she told anyone of the abuse, according to the civil claim.

Our Lady of Fatima Church in Coquitlam is under the ownership of the RCAV.

L.V. claims that, in 2008, she spoke to RCAV about the abuse she endured at the hands of Chevrier . At that time, RCAV offered L.V. nominal compensation but did not tell L.V. that Chevrier had a history of sexual abuse allegations, the claim alleges.

The claim states that L.V. didn’t learn about this history until she listened to the CBC podcast “Stolen: Surviving St. Michael’s”

Two lawsuits were filed in Saskatoon and Regina in 1999 and 2004, respectively, which named Chevrier and several other school staff members as abusers.

RCAV’s failure to acknowledge the historical allegations against Chevrier led to further harm, according to the claim.

Chevrier was a member of the Order of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI), and the suit names several corporate entities associated with the religious order, as well as several other Canadian archdiocese and parishes where he worked.

The claim alleges the OMI operates a network of 24 corporate entities registered as charities across the country, which are specifically structured to limit liability from civil sexual abuse cases,

Chevrier was an acting principal at St. Michael’s Indian Residential School between 1950 and 1954 in Duck Lake, Saskatchewan, where he had been the subject of numerous sexual abuse allegations from former students, according to the civil claim.

The claim asserts that the institutional defendants “knew or ought to have known” of sexual abuse allegations against Chevrier, and were negligent in failing to protect L.V.

The claim also alleges the institutions concealed allegations against Chevrier, and shuffled him to dioceses without warning parishioners of the risk he posed to children.

The claim accuses the institutional defendants of continuing to participate in historic “systemic abuse” regarding concealing sexual abuse of children by its clergy, permitting “pedophile networks to form.”

“The institutional defendants, collectively and individually, were complicit in a culture of entrenched clericalism, secrecy and distorted beliefs that promoted the psychosexual immaturity of clergy,” the claim states.

The tenure of Vancouver Archbishop James Francis Carney from 1964 to 1990 is cited in the civil claim as an example of this pattern of behaviour by the institutional defendants.

Several clergy members operating under Carney were credibly accused of sexual abuse, and later promoted, according to court documents.

These include, but are not limited to, Father Barry Glenndinning, who was invited to B.C. two years after he was convicted of gross indecency with six children in Ontario in 1976, according to court documents.

None of the charges in the civil claim have been proven in court. A response has not been filed.

Patrick Penner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Tri-Cities Dispatch