Lawyer says sexual abuse victims still waiting for money from Catholic Church

Another victim of sexual abuse by a Catholic priest has reached a settlement with the Archdiocese of Moncton, but he, along with over two dozen others, doesn't know when he'll see the money.

A lawyer representing two dozen victims said his clients are needlessly suffering because of a dispute between the church and its insurance company.

Most of the alleged crimes took place decades ago, with the main perpetrator being former Cap-Pelé priest Camille Leger. Leger died in 1990 without ever being accused or convicted of any crimes. 

His many alleged victims are now seeking justice against the archdiocese, but lawyer Robert Talach said there have been constant delays in getting these men the compensation he says they're entitled to.

CBC

"There's a lot of frustration, and a lot of anger, and definitely distress," said Talach, who leads the sexual abuse department for the London, Ont.-based Beckett Personal Injury Lawyers.

"There's distress by these victims who were victimized as children and continue to remain somewhat vulnerable." 

Talach said he and another lawyer are representing about 50 victims between the two of them.

A dozen of Talach's clients have reached settlements with the archdiocese, said Talach. The other dozen still haven't reached an agreement with the church.

But Talach said the battle isn't over even for those who have reached settlements. They still haven't received their money — and most of these settlements were agreed to more than three years ago.

Talach said the money offered is, for the victims, "taking pennies on the dollar."

"If you drop out of school in Grade 6 because your priest is doing horrible things to you, and has been for years, you don't tend to get a very good job, and you tend to not live a very good life," he said. 

"All they're asking for is some small piece of that large chunk of their life that they lost."

Three settlement conferences were held this week in the Court of Queen's Bench in Moncton, and one case reached a settlement. Talach couldn't say how much the settlement was.

He also said he has no idea when the victim — and the other victims he's representing — will get the money.

Legal battle ongoing

Since 2015, the archdiocese has been locked in a legal battle with its insurer, Co-operators General Insurance, over money it had paid out in compensation to abuse victims. 

The church has argued the insurance policy at the time of the abuse included coverage for "bodily injury caused intentionally by … the archdiocese."

Beckett Personal Injury Lawyers

But the insurers claimed the church failed in its obligation to tell the insurance company of the abuse when it became aware of it.

The church is seeking $4.2 million against Co-operators.

Talach said there was a very similar case recently in Bathurst, where an insurance company was forced to compensate the Catholic Diocese of Bathurst after the country's highest court rejected its appeal.

Given this, he said, the Co-operators is needlessly prolonging this process.

"The law of the land is that the insurance company must pay the church for any money it owes these victims," Talach said.

"And the law is the church must pay the victims. So it all seems pretty easy."

Neither Co-operators nor the Archdiocese of Moncton could be reached for comment Friday.

No money for victims

But in December 2018, Valéry Vienneau, the archbishop of Moncton, said the archdiocese already had given all the money it had and will not pay the victims before the legal battle with the insurance company comes to an end.

Even while the church waits for the money, Talach said, it needs to take leadership on the issue.

"They were able to raise millions of dollars for the cathedral," he said, referring to a $7 million renovation project for Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption Cathedral. 

"That's bricks and mortar. That should be a low priority, frankly. There's flesh and blood out there that's suffering."

CBC

The other two alleged victims who attended settlement conferences this week couldn't come to an agreement, he said. 

They're supposed to go to trial in March, but Talach said it might get put off because the church is trying to delay the lawsuits until the matter with the insurance company is settled.

Talach said the victims are tired of delays, and some have been litigating for five to seven years. And since the abuse happened decades ago, the evidence is getting old and people are dying.

The lengthy process is taking a toll on the men.

"There's absolutely a feeling of re-victimization, because they're caught between this battle of Goliaths, of big insurance company versus big church, and they really have little say in it," Talach said. 

"But they ultimately suffer the outcome and the delay of it."