Moncton archdiocese, insurer reach settlement in lawsuit over sex abuse compensation

·4 min read
Archbishop Valéry Vienneau said it has been 'a difficult process both for victims and for the archdiocese alike.' ( - image credit)
Archbishop Valéry Vienneau said it has been 'a difficult process both for victims and for the archdiocese alike.' ( - image credit)

The Catholic Archdiocese of Moncton has reached a settlement in a multimillion dollar lawsuit against its insurance company regarding compensation paid to victims of sexual abuse by priests.

Although the details of the agreement with the Co-operators General Insurance Company are subject to a confidentiality clause, the resulting funds will be used to pay claims for sexual assaults that occurred in the archdiocese between 1955 and 1984, according to a statement issued by Archbishop Valéry Vienneau.

"The settlement made does involve some compromise, but it provides immediate certainty, particularly in light of advice that the pending court hearing would be put over for another year due to a shortage of judges," he said.

The case had been scheduled for trial in October.

The archdiocese confirmed it resolved a dispute with the Co-operators over the insurer's liability coverage of the archdiocese between 1977 and 1999, following two days of mediation in the Court of King's Bench.

"The certainty of resolution now will soon allow us to bring compensation and closure to victims and allow our archdiocese to again devote its full attention to service to our parishioners and those reliant upon archdiocesan services," Vienneau said.

"We regret all the injury caused to the victims and acknowledge their patience."

The Co-operators declined to comment.

Diocese argued policy covered 'bodily injury'

The archdiocese filed the lawsuit in 2013 to recoup $4.2 million it had paid out to victims of sexual abuse.

Court documents obtained by CBC News revealed the diocese had paid a total of $10.6 million to 109 victims through a compensation process run by former Supreme Court justice Michel Bastarache.

The diocese claimed $4.2 million of that fell within 1977 to 1999, when the church had an insurance policy with the Co-operators that included coverage for "bodily injury caused intentionally by … the archdiocese."

But the Co-operators argued the diocese committed an intentional act when it failed to supervise and discipline members of the clergy who committed the abuses, and that it failed in its obligation to tell the insurance company as soon as it became aware of the abuse.

Radio Canada
Radio Canada

The archdiocese will "over the next several months" use the insurance funds coupled with available archdiocesan funds to pay remaining claims, most of which had been settled subject to the outcome of the lawsuit against Co-Operators, said Vienneau.

No other details will be released, he said.

There should not be a victim or survivor of clergy abuse in the archdiocese of Moncton that is not compensated by Christmas Day this year. - Robert Talach, lawyer representing victims

Lawyer Robert Talach, who represents some of the victims, said it's "positive" an agreement has finally been reached after nearly a decade, but waiting another several months is "inadequate."

"It should be coming weeks," he said, noting some of the victims reached tentative settlements nearly eight years ago.

"There should not be a victim or survivor of clergy abuse in the archdiocese of Moncton that is not compensated by Christmas Day this year. So let's sharpen our pencils and let's get to work," said Talach, who leads the sexual abuse department for the London, Ont.-based Beckett Personal Injury Lawyers.

"They've got the funds now, apparently, so there should be no greater priority of this Christian institution than to get resolution, healing and compensation to these individuals — now."

Beckett Personal Injury Lawyers
Beckett Personal Injury Lawyers

Talach said the "vast majority" of the agreements were reached in 2015 "on the promise that they would be settled with their insurance company in the coming months."

"That's why this language of 'months' spooks me, because I've heard it before. I've heard 'months' and it turned into seven years and counting," he said.

He noted the value of those settlements has "dwindled" over the years with inflation. "And there's interest that will be inadequately compensated for."

In addition, "they took less money then because they thought they were going to get paid then," he said.

The archdiocese asks "that God grant peace to every victim of abuse in the archdiocese, those who have resolved claims and those who have yet to do so," said Vienneau, and it asks for their "continued patience while [it takes] the necessary steps to resolve remaining claims and complete settlements."

"Our implementation of stringent guidelines and procedures for clergy and volunteers will hopefully prevent any repeat of such aggressions."