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Sexual abuse by Christian brothers, clergy, etc. in Canada

Abuse at the Mount Cashel
orphanage in Newfoundland

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Abuse at the Mount Cashel orphanage in Newfoundland:

The Christian Brothers of Ireland in Canada (CBIC) is a branch of a lay Roman Catholic order which was founded in Ireland. They are most commonly referred to simply as the "Christian Brothers." They have opened schools in many countries; one was the Mount Cashel orphanage in St. John's, Newfoundland, on the East coast of Canada.

For many years, the local priests and the rest of the Roman Catholic church clergy were highly respected by almost all Newfoundlanders. Their behavior was considered beyond criticism. The Provincial government and police adopted a hands-off policy towards religious matters. When allegations of physical and sexual abuse started to surface in the late 1980s, the government, police and church cooperated in an unsuccessful cover-up.

The conspiracy of silence could not hold indefinitely. In 1989-DEC:

 "...allegations of sexual and physical abuse were publicized in St. John's Sunday Express. Within six months, the last remaining resident was placed in alternative accomodation [sic] and Mount Cashel [was] closed down permanently." 1

More than 300 former pupils eventually alleged physical and sexual abuse at the orphanage. Gordon A. Winter headed the Winter Commission which was charged with investigating the accusations. They issued a Report of the Archdiocean Commission of Inquiry into Sexual Abuse of Children in 1990-JUN. In 1992, four men in the Roman Catholic lay order were charged with the sexual and physical abuse of boys at the orphanage during the 1970s. In 1996, six additional members of the order were charged with sexually and physically abusing 17 boys at the same orphanage between 1950 and 1964. 2 Nine lay brothers were eventually convicted:

"Archbishop Alphonsus Penney of Newfoundland resigned in 1990 after an internal investigative panel placed some of the blame for cover-ups of the abuse on him." 3

The courts ordered the order's assets sold in order to compensate their victims. In 2000-DEC, The Star Phoenix newspaper [Saskatoon, SK], reported that senior leaders of the Christian brothers in Rome transferred ownership of some of the teaching order's assets out of Canada in order to prevent millions of dollars from being liquidated and used to pay compensation to the victims. There are also allegations that the Catholic hierarchy in Vancouver tried to help the Christian Brothers shield additional assets in the form of two Vancouver schools: Vancouver College and St. Thomas More. "They were by far the largest asset held by the Brothers. They are estimated to be worth between $38 and $43 million dollars." 4

During 1996, the Province of Newfoundland has paid $11.25 million to settle about 40 Mount Cashel claims. Other victims of the Christian Brothers' abuse have initiated claims for additional compensation from the Province.

On 2002-JUL-27, the two Vancouver schools reached an out-of-court settlement to pay $19 million dollars to the liquidating company, Deloitte & Touche, which was appointed to wind up the assets of the Christian Brothers. Unfortunately, the Province of Newfoundland is "by far the largest single claimant on the Christian Brothers' estate." 4 The liquidator is also owed about $3 million. If both collect their claims in full, then less than $5 million will be left to compensate the victims. David Wingfield, spokesperson for the liquidator, wrote in a news release that settling on $19 million for an approximately $40 million dollar asset is reasonable. He said "Our job is to get money for claimants, not to run continuous litigation." He said that the church side effectively made liquidation "difficult." 4 Barry Stagg, a Newfoundland lawyer for a Mount Cashel victim, expressed the opinion that if Newfoundland attempts to recover money from the Christian Brothers estate, "there will be hell to pay in St. John's [Newfoundland]." 4

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare the first draft of this essay back in 2001. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Canadian Orphanages and Maternity Homes," TRIAD Canada, at:
  2. Scott Simmie, "Victim abused by priest: 'Floodgates will open'," The Toronto Star, 2002-MAR-24, at:
  3. "Members of Canadian Order charged in orphanage abuse case," 1996-NOV-20, Catholic World News, at:
  4. "Sale of schools to help Mount Cashel victims: But creditors could claim most of the $19 million," Canadian Press. Published in the Toronto Star, 2002-JUL-26, Page A21.

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Copyright 2002 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2002-MAR-26
Latest update: 2010-SEP-10
Author: B.A. Robinson

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