$14.7-million settlement in sex abuse class action against Montreal archdiocese

A class action lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Montreal has reached a $14.7 million settlement that a judge will be asked to sign off on in the coming weeks, plaintiffs’ lawyers said Thursday.

The lawsuit, filed in 2019 and authorized by Quebec Superior Court in 2021, covers victims of sexual abuse by priests and lay employees of the archdiocese since 1940.

The lead plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit is the victim of Brian Boucher, a dismissed pastor who sexually abused two boys under his watch and was convicted. He was sentenced to eight years in prison in 2019.

Alain Arsenault, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said the settlement covered abuse by parish priests, but not priests belonging to specific religious groups.

The settlement now needs to be approved by Quebec Superior Court in the next few weeks, and a delay may be requested to allow the maximum number of victims to come forward, he said.

There will be a limit for people to register and people need to know that no one will be able to get compensation from the Archdiocese after the specified date.

“It’s important to say that victims of priests in the Archdiocese of Montreal should contact us quickly and not wait until the last minute,” Arsenault said in an interview. “This is also to tell victims outside the diocese of Montreal to also contact us, to register.”

Arsenault said his law firm has 18 pending cases involving other parishes and religious groups. He said the Montreal agreement is the first time a Quebec diocese has settled a class action lawsuit.

The agreement covers up to 123 victims, a figure extrapolated from those who have come forward so far, Arsenault said. But he said that number could be much higher. If more victims come forward, the agreement will restart to negotiate additional funding, he said.

The adjudicator — a retired judge — will ultimately decide how the money is allocated to victims of different types of abuse with different long-term effects.

Arsenault said the archdiocese was open to a settlement from the start, and credited the cooperation to Archbishop Christian Lépine, who has shown a willingness to address historic abuse.

The Archdiocese of Montreal said it welcomed the solution.

“We hope this agreement will be approved by the courts, and we hope it will allow victims to continue the difficult recovery process with greater peace,” it said in a brief statement.

—Sidhartha Banerjee, Canadian Press

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