Vancouver judge greenlights class-action lawsuit involving Mount Cashel abusers
The fallout from the Mount Cashel Orphanage abuse scandal continues to spread, as a judge has allowed a class-action lawsuit in British Columbia to proceed involving the very same men from the notorious Newfoundland orphanage.
In a ruling handed down by Justice Simon R. Coval on Tuesday, the court determined the best course forward was a class-action lawsuit, rather than what could have been dozens of individual lawsuits against a pair of private schools — Vancouver College and St. Thomas More Collegiate — as well as the Archdiocese of Vancouver and a number of current or former Christian Brothers.
That came as a relief to Darren Liptrot, the man who first came forward with allegations of abuse at Vancouver College and agreed to be the lead plaintiff, or face case.
"This is a major step forward in the journey to seek answers and justice for all the students who suffered abuse at the hands of the Christian Brothers at these schools," Liptrot wrote in a statement sent to CBC News.
"There is strength in numbers, and collectively, we can force the schools and the Vancouver Archdiocese to disclose what they knew and why they failed to protect us."
In a statement to parents shared with CBC News, Vancouver College said it hoped the claims would be "managed in a more individualized, efficient and timely manner," but said the institution is "committed to addressing these claims in the manner that best serves those affected."
In its communications with parents, St. Thomas More Collegiate stressed the allegations at its school only pertained to Christian Brothers teachers, of which there are none remaining. Neither school denied the abuse happened.
The Archdiocese of Vancouver did not reply to a request for comment.
Mount Cashel connection
Vancouver College and St. Thomas More Collegiate were run by the Christian Brothers — a lay order of teachers closely connected with the Catholic church in Canada. The group also ran the Mount Cashel Orphanage in St. John's.
Liptrot went public in February 2020 with allegations of physical and sexual abuse against Edward English, a man well known in Newfoundland and Labrador as one of the abusers at Mount Cashel in the 1970s.
It's now known that English confessed to police in 1975, but a coverup was concocted by the Christian Brothers, Royal Newfoundland Constabulary and a senior bureaucrat within the province's Justice Department.
As part of the deal, several Christian Brothers were sent out of province. The allegations against them weren't made public until 1989, by which time they'd been teaching at Catholic boys' schools in the Vancouver area for more than a decade.
The lawsuit names Gerard Gabriel McHugh, who was the head of the Christian Brothers when the deal was struck. McHugh has previously testified at a public inquiry that he played a role in the deal and allowed the brothers to teach at Vancouver schools under his watch as early as four months later.
Dozens come forward with allegations
While Liptrot stood alone in the beginning, he's since been joined by dozens of men who shared similar experiences at St. Thomas More Collegiate from 1976 to 1989, and Vancouver College from 1976 all the way to 2013.
"Since that time, we've received calls probably numbering over 65 by now, from students who reported that they were subjected to physical or sexual abuse, or witnessed physical abuse of a fellow student," said lawyer Joe Fiorante, who is leading the team representing the plaintiffs. "The numbers continue to grow. We suspect there are more out there, so we urge those people to contact us."
Fiorante said certification is a big step in the proceedings. He said the church and schools "vigorously defended" the certification hearings but the judge ultimately ruled against the majority of their arguments. Fiorante said it's too early to tell whether all sides will come to a settlement agreement or whether the church and schools will drag it to a trial.
"We are certainly in it for the long run and are obviously prepared to take it to trial for Mr. Liptrot and others to get that accountability which they very much seek."