MONTREAL — A Quebec law firm is launching a $10-million class-action lawsuit on behalf of the alleged victims of a former Montreal police officer and hockey coach who died awaiting trial on sex-related charges.
The request for authorization filed Tuesday alleges Francois Lamarre sexually abused dozens or possibly hundreds of children over a 30-year period, including when he worked as a minor hockey coach in the city of Greenfield Park, which is now part of Longueuil.
"Lamarre abused the power and authority given to him by the city of Greenfield Park ... to prey upon dozens, if not hundreds, of innocent and vulnerable children during the formative years of their youth, necessarily and automatically causing them serious and irreparable injury," the application says.
The class action targets Lamarre's estate and the city of Longueuil, located on Montreal's south shore. The lawyers allege the city failed to protect the children from Lamarre's actions. The allegations have not been proven in court.
"Not only is the respondent city responsible for the unlawful behaviour of its hockey coach Lamarre, but the respondent city was also negligent in failing to ensure the safety of the children enrolled in its hockey program," the document alleges.
The City of Longueuil declined to comment.
Lamarre died in July at the age of 71 before his case could go to trial. He was charged with gross indecency, indecent exposure, sexual assault, sexual touching and invitation to sexual touching, involving four alleged male victims between the ages of nine and 16.
Lamarre retired from the Montreal police force in 1994. None of his alleged crimes were alleged to have occurred while he was on duty.
Following Lamarre's arrest in December 2019, other alleged victims came forward, including a Longueuil municipal councillor representing Greenfield Park. Police said the Crown had authorized charges in 16 cases tied to Lamarre.
The lead petitioner is a man who alleges he was sexually abused by Lamarre in the 1970s beginning when he was a 10-year-old hockey player.
In the court documents, the petitioner alleges the coach, then in his mid-20s, would touch him sexually under the guise of wrestling or play-fighting, and would do the same with other boys around him.
"As he was only 10 years of age, he did not know what to do or say, and simply hoped the behaviour would stop. It did not."
The petitioner claims Lamarre befriended his parents, who encouraged him to spend more time with the coach outside the hockey rink, during which time the alleged abuse escalated.
The man, now 58, claims in the documents that Lamarre's "barrage" of sexual assaults during his childhood "have haunted him throughout his life," leading to anxiety, fear of police and adults in positions of authority, excessive alcohol consumption and suicidal thoughts.
Robert Kugler, one of the lawyers who filed the lawsuit, said Wednesday he hopes the class action will encourage more of Lamarre's alleged victims to come forward.
"This is the type of situation where we believe victims who have been suffering in silence for as many as 50 years can finally obtain justice," he said.
In a phone interview, he said class actions have proven useful in recent years when it comes to sexual abuse cases, most notably in cases involving religious orders. Kugler said Lamarre's death should not be an impediment to the outcome of the class action.
The applicants are asking for $10,000,000 in punitive damages, as well as additional money for damages for each of the victims in an amount to be determined by the court. They're also asking for a total of $775,000 in compensation for the lead petitioner.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 2, 2020.
Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press