Lawyers propose $8 million settlement in Nunavut school sex abuse case

Lawyers in a class action lawsuit involving decades-old sexual abuse at the hands of teacher Maurice Cloughley are proposing the territorial government pays $8 million to settle the case.

Law firms Cooper Regel (based in Alberta) and Morris Moore (Newfoundland and Labrador), the representative plaintiffs in this case, announced the proposed settlement May 7. The abuse dates back to Cloughley’s time as a teacher in Resolute Bay and Clyde River between April 1969 and July 1981.

“It’s one of those things that’s been a very long, drawn out process,” said Alan Regel in conversation with Nunavut News. “Myself and Lynn Moore picked this up from another law firm … Unfortunately we had a number of people passing away who were class action members. So, one of the things you don’t often see is we are providing for the estates of some claimants.

“In this case, the police collected evidence in the pre-trial elements,” Regel explained. “We believe that if they described something in those circumstances, we can rely on that … In some circumstances, if a statement is thought to be credible or reliable, it is better [than those made] in court sometimes.”

Regel said the Supreme Court of Canada has relaxed hearsay elements in such cases in recent years.

“There is a trend to relax the rules in that regard,” he said.

He called it “a fine line” between making sure those who are no longer alive, such as a young woman in Yellowknife who committed suicide in RCMP cells before the trial, likely as a result of the abuse, are still compensated for the trauma they experienced through surviving loved ones.

Each estate claim will be adjudicated on a case-by-case basis by a retired judge, “if he’s satisfied that they’re entitled to it,” explained Regel. “He’ll be our gatekeeper.

“It’s something that all counsel agreed would be a reasonable way to proceed.”

Regel explained that the relaxing of hearsay rules in pre-trial proceedings reflects how these matters “in Parliament and the courts have historically been under-reported and there’s perceptions that coming forward is difficult, and that people might be afraid to come forward in court. So things will be heard on their own merits, rather than being dismissed on technicalities. These are all part of the negotiations that took place.”

Should the court approve the settlement, the territory will pay $8 million and establish a settlement fund that compensates class action participants, as well as lawyers’ fees and expenses. The settlement fund is intended to be divided between class members with the size of shares based on individual injuries, with a maximum payout of up to $200,000 on any individual class member’s claim.

“The representative plaintiffs and their lawyers believe the proposed settlement is in the best interests of all class members,” reads the media statement from Cooper Regel and Morris Moore. “By agreeing to the proposed settlement, both sides avoid the costs and risks of further litigation and provide benefits to class members (if the court approves the proposed settlement).”

The next court hearing to approve the proposed settlement will take place on June 4 at the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit. The full notice and settlement agreement can be found at, including details of the proposed settlement and explanations of the class members’ legal rights and options.

Kira Wronska Dorward, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Nunavut News