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

Abuse at Christian Brothers' schools in Ontario

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Abuse at Christian Brothers' schools in Ontario:

Allegations surfaced in the 1980s of widespread sexual abuse at two Ontario schools operated by separate Roman Catholic orders during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s :

bullet St. Joseph's Training School for Boys, in Alfred, ON, which was operated by the Christian Schools of Ottawa, and

bullet St. John's Training School for Boys, in Uxbridge, ON which was operated by the Toronto Christian Brothers.

The Ontario Provincial Police conducted an investigation in 1990 and laid 200 charges against 30 Christian Brothers (one source says 28 Brothers plus one employee). Counts ranged from "assault causing bodily harm to indecent assault and sodomy." 1 There would have been more charges, except that some of the Brothers had already died. "Archival documents showed that provincial officials had quietly investigated a raft of allegations of abuse at the schools, but never alerted police or prosecuted school staff." 2 Eventually, 700 former students came forward to allege abuse. About 400 organized a mutual support group, Helpline. Rather than pursue their legal options, they decided to seek mediation. They perceived that this offered a number of advantages:

bullet It avoids the adversarial process of conventional litigation, with its emotional and financial costs.

bullet It allows for a broader, more creative range of solutions than are possible in a legal settlement.

bullet Past relationships have a chance of being preserved -- particularly those between the student victims and their church.

bullet Successful mediation can empower the victims.

bullet Mediation is perceived as being more cost effective.

In 1992, they were able to reach an agreement with the Brothers of the Christian Schools of Ottawa, the Government of Ontario, the [Roman Catholic] Archdiocese of Ottawa, and the [Roman Catholic] Archdiocese of Toronto, which involved:

bullet Facilitation of apologies by those responsible for physical and sexual abuse.

bullet Financial compensation for pain and suffering.

bullet Financial advances for "medical / dental services, vocational rehabilitation, educational upgrading and literacy training."

bullet Provision of counseling services.

bullet Payment to ex-students who had not been paid for farm work and menial work while they were at the schools.

bullet A commitment by the participants to work towards "the eradication of child abuse."

Implementation of the agreement started in 1993-JAN. The financial settlement totaled $23 million. Amounts paid to the victims ranged from $2,500 to $107,944. Of all of the claimants, 97% were validated. The Toronto Christian Brothers, operators of the Uxbridge school, contributed $3 million, "but refused to sign the agreement, its lawyer calling the demand for money 'blackmail.' " 3 One hundred percent of the victims of the Alfred school voted to share their compensation equally with the ex-students of the Uxbridge schools. In return, the Alfred students were to receive a share of any future settlements received by Uxbridge victims. On 2002-JAN, a class-action suit was filed by David McCann, president of Helpline, against the Toronto Christian Brothers, alleging that they committed a breach of trust by paying some of the Uxbridge victims directly rather than assuring that the money was shared with the Alfred victims.

One part of the settlement, agreed to by the Province of Ontario's representative, stated "that the premier was to propose an all-party resolution in the legislature, apologizing for and condemning the abuse." In spite of requests from Aloysius Ambrozic, Archbishop of Toronto, and Senator Doug Roche, the head of the reconciliation committee, the then Ontario Premier Mike Harris refused to implement the agreement. 2 Instead, while he was out of town on 1996-JUN-25, he had the Attorney General of Ontario deliver an apology in the legislature on behalf of the people of Ontario. 4 The subsequent resolution was passed unanimously by the legislature, and was followed by a minute of silence. Almost four years later, on 2000-MAR-21, Harris commented to reporters: "Of course I apologize. I apologize as an Ontarian, as premier, as an individual." David McCann, an ex-student of the Alfred school sued Harris over the delegated apology.

Conflict Resolution Network Canada 5 maintains a website which contains has a very complete description of the mediation process. It could be an excellent model for other groups of victims of clergy abuse who are weighing their options of whether to pursue resolution by mediation or through the courts.

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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. Goldie M. Shea, "Institutional Child Abuse in Canada: Redress Programs Relating to Institutional Child Abuse in Canada: "6. Ontario - St. John's and St. Joseph's - The Helpline Agreement," Law Commission of Canada, at: http://www.lcc.gc.ca/en/themes/mr/ica/
  2. Darcy Henton, "Archbishop asked Harris to apologize for Ont. school abuse: court documents," Yahoo News Canada, 2002-JAN-20, at:  http://ca.news.yahoo.com/020120/6
  3. Art Babych, "Suit filed against religious orders," 2002-JAN-28, Western Catholic Reporter, at: http://www.wcr.ab.ca/news/2002/0128/
  4. "Legislative Assembly of Ontario #94, 1996-JUN-25, Orders of the Day," at:  http://www.ontla.on.ca/documents/votes/
  5. Conflict Resolution Network Canada has a web site at: https://www.crnetwork.ca/

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Copyright 2001 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2002-MAR-26
Latest update: 2002-JUL-25
Author: B.A. Robinson

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