Four Ont. Women Reach Settlement for Abuse by Priest

April 7, 2007

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WINDSOR, Ont. – Four women who were sexually abused by a priest when they were children will receive an undisclosed sum of money in a settlement reached with the diocese of London in southwestern Ontario.

The four are among 59 women who have sued the diocese over the abuse committed by Charles Sylvestre, a convicted sex offender and priest. Sylvestre died in prison in January at the age of 84, only a few months into serving a three-year sentence.

"We are not disclosing the amounts because the women don't want them known and it complicates future settlements," said Robert Talach, who is representing 24 of the women.

The four cases settled Thursday were fast-tracked partly because they involve some of the oldest victims, but also because of the fragile health of some of the women, Talach said.

One of the women, Vivian Dobbs, 65, was in Grade 7 when she was molested, Talach said.

"She was in a play Sylvestre had written and as a reward to cast members they went on a picnic with him," Talach said. "He assaulted her in the water when he offered to teach her how to swim. To this day she's had difficulty going into the water at beaches. It's haunted her her whole life."

Talach said Dobbs returned to her home in British Columbia "a whole new person" after the settlement was reached.

The other complainants who will receive money include another 65-year-old Windsor woman who was abused in 1954, a 56-year old victim who attended St. Thomas Aquinas parish in Sarnia, Ont., and a 44-year-old victim who attended St. Ursula's in Chatham, Ont.

At least two women reported the sexual abuse to authorities, which resulted in the diocese transferring Sylvestre to another parish, according to a press release issued by the Ledroit Beckett law firm in London.

Bishop Ronald Fabbro said, "money cannot compensate the victims adequately and reconciliation is the goal," according to a news release on the diocese web site.

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