3 Men Sue N.S Church Over Sex Abuse Claims

January 22, 2009

By: John Lewandowski, The Canadian Press

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HALIFAX — Three men who allege they were sexually abused as children by a Roman Catholic priest in two small Nova Scotia parishes five decades ago are suing the church.

Ken Boudreau and Raymond Boudreau, who are not related, allege in separate statements of claim filed with the Nova Scotia Supreme Court that they were abused by Rev. Adolphe LeBlanc, who died 35 years ago.

The men contend that the abuse began in their small village of Wedgeport in the Yarmouth area in the 1950s. Their lawyer, Paul LeDroit of London, Ont., alleged at a news conference on Wednesday that the abuse was known to church officials at the time.

LeDroit said a third statement of claim has been filed on behalf of a man only identified by the initials H.W.M., a former altar boy in Salmon River, N.S. He claims he was abused starting in 1945 when he was 14-years-old.

The Archdiocese of Halifax and the Diocese of Yarmouth have not filed a statement of defence to the claims, which have not been proven in court.

But at a news conference, Archbishop Anthony Mancini said he would consult with legal counsel and begin researching records to try to get to the truth.

He said he would follow the guidelines established by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops to ensure that everyone was treated fairly and that the church acted with compassion and responsibility.

Mancini said the timelines involved in the allegations could prove problematic.

"How does one get hold of the necessary information to be able to demonstrate one way or the other what's being said is true?" he said.

"If our archives are deficient, if it's impossible to get corroborating evidence or information to prove or disprove these allegations it's going to be particularly difficult to arrive at the truth," he told a called news conference.

Mancini said that as archbishop he will ensure that there is an appropriate response to allegations of past or current abuse.

Ken Boudreau, 61, who now lives in Ontario, said earlier that he was prompted to act after watching a television documentary on sexual abuse in the church.

"The reason I'm doing this is I know how difficult it is to live with guilt and shame," he told reporters.

In their statements of claim, Ken and Raymond Boudreau allege they were abused while LeBlanc worked in Wedgeport.

The abuse involving Ken Boudreau allegedly began in 1958 when he was 11.

"As a result of his position as a Roman Catholic priest, the plaintiff's parents permitted him to ride in Father LeBlanc's car and be alone with Father LeBlanc, overnight and unsupervised, at Father LeBlanc's cottage," the document says.

The claim says the abuse was "ongoing and continuous" over a period of at least two years.

"Father LeBlanc used his position of authority and trust, as well as the dependency relationship that he had fostered with the plaintiff, to ensure that the plaintiff did not speak of their sexual activities," it says.

Raymond Boudreau, 65, who still lives in Wedgeport, alleges in the statement of claim that the abuse began in 1955 when he was 11 and lasted at least four years.

It says he also spent time alone with LeBlanc at the priest's cottage.

"Father LeBlanc's behaviour constituted sexual abuse and assault," the statement of claim says.

The documents argue that the Archdiocese of Halifax and the Diocese of Yarmouth failed to properly investigate LeBlanc's background, character and psychological state prior to accepting him as a priest.

They also say the church "knew that Father LeBlanc had the propensity to engage in such deviant behaviours and that he was, in fact, engaging in such deviant behaviour."

The statements of claim say allegations about LeBlanc, who worked as a priest for 29 years, surfaced at previous parishes where he was posted, and that in Wedgeport it was an "open secret" that many people knew of the abuse but did not speak about it in public.

"Despite their knowledge .... the archdiocese and diocese took no steps to stop the behaviour," the statements of claim say.

At the news conference, Ken Boudreau encouraged others to come forward.

"There are always more than two or three victims," he said. "In my own village ... I called many, many people who were abused but don't want to come forth."

LeDroit said investigations by his law firm lead him to believe there might be more than 100 alleged victims.

"It would not be the first time we have seen sexually deviant priests ending up in small communities where there is a much smaller chance of parishioners reporting abuse and causing public scandal," he told the news conference.

Raymond Boudreau said he stepped forward after seeing a newspaper ad about the lawsuit.

"I had made myself a promise more than 40 years back that I would expose this priest for what he did," he said.

Both men said they didn't tell their parents or the authorities at the time because in those days no one challenged the power of the local priest.

"The priests were the rulers of everything almighty out there. If anyone accused them of anything it would be like someone in Iraq had accused Saddam Hussein of something," said Raymond Boudreau.

"If a young boy had complained he would have been in trouble. Not the priest."

He said the abuse stopped when he turned 15 and he mustered up the courage to say "no more."

Mancini said he appreciates the concern about the authority of the local priest, but added they were different times.

"Of course there was a time when the church in various parts of the world exercised more power than it does now, that's no surprise to anybody," he said.

"Under those circumstances would there have been a reluctance to bring something like this forward? I would think yes."

However, Mancini said the same could have been said of any other authority figure in a small village at the time.

The plaintiffs are seeking $2 million each for pain and suffering, mental distress and exemplary and punitive damages.

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