Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Seven lawsuits launched alleging Ont. Catholic priests sexually abused kids

In 1956, Greg O'Connor was a keen Grade 9 student in North Bay, Ont., and had even skipped a grade, but that soon faded and he eventually dropped out of school after suffering what he says were three years of abuse at the hands of a priest.

O'Connor and six others on Monday announced they were suing the Roman Catholic dioceses of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., and London, Ont., as well as the Congregation of the Resurrection in Ontario.

The seven lawsuits - each seeking $4.5 million for pain and suffering, mental distress and special damages - name six priests, who the men and women allege abused them as children decades ago.

Only one of the six priests is still alive.

The litigation was announced in Sudbury by London-based law firm Ledroit Beckett Litigation Lawyers.

Allegations in the suits - six filed in Sudbury and one in London - have not been proven in court.

Lawyer Rob Talach said allegations of sexual abuse by priests are particularly troubling.

"Some victims are seen as betraying the church by coming forward," Talach said.

"They'll be ostracized within some elements of the community. It's very difficult for them."

O'Connor, who alleges Rev. Magnus Fedy abused him in the priest's quarters, said he wants parents everywhere to be alert for signs of abuse.

"(Look for) change in personality, weight loss, recurring sickness - anything that changes," O'Connor said.

"I know that when I was abused, my circle of friends diminished because I maybe told my friends about it and it seemed to me like they blamed me, that it was my fault."

The plaintiffs came forward at a news conference held Monday to "empower" themselves and show other potential victims they "are not alone," the law firm said in a release.

Thomas Miller lived beside O'Connor's school, Scollard Hall, and Rev. Victor Killoran befriended him. He let Miller use the school's gym and showers, but Miller alleges Killoran also sexually abused him for almost four years.

Another child, Anita Contant, who played on the school grounds with her siblings, alleges both Fedy and Killoran abused her for three years starting when she was eight years old.

Killoran pleaded guilty to abusing a boy and a girl in the Kitchener, Ont.-area in 1990. Two other priests named in the lawsuits were criminally charged for sexual offences.

Wayne Thibert alleges his abuse began in southern Ontario and followed him to northern Ontario. Thibert said he counted Rev. Lawrence Paquette as his best friend. But he now alleges Paquette sexually abused him for six years.

Thibert ran away from home and was relieved when his parents punished him by denying him time with Paquette. Eventually the family moved to the North Bay area, but Paquette would come to visit, and Thibert alleges the abuse continued there.

Raymond Carriere and R.D. Sabourin allege that Rev. Rene Hebert sexually abused them on camping trips through their Sudbury parish when they were 14 and 15 years old.

A man identified only as J.G. alleges that Rev. Gerald Roy abused him for two years as a teenager.

Roy, who was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison in 2001 for sexual assaults against four altar boys beginning in the early 1980s, is the only priest named in the lawsuits who is still alive.

The same law firm previously launched three other lawsuits, each also for $4.5 million, against the Sault diocese in February 2007.
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