Lawyer representing sex abuse victims of New Brunswick Catholic priests believes hundreds more complainants will emerge

November 17, 2017

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FREDERICTON—A lawyer representing dozens of alleged Catholic sex abuse victims in New Brunswick says he expects hundreds more complainants may emerge.

Robert Talach said he believes more people will seek compensation through the courts after a 2012 reconciliation process that saw 80 victims compensated, and that the actual number of victims in the province is in the hundreds.

“It’s going to be shocking for people,” he said Wednesday from his office in London, Ont.

“You are talking dozens of victims for each priest. These guys were left in the field operating and abusing for decades.”

Talach said he believes that a CBC News estimate of 56 current lawsuits against the Catholic Church in the province is low, noting that he’s handling about 32 involving the late Camille Leger alone.

Leger was a priest in Cap-Pele, N.B., between 1957 and 1980. He died in 1990 and his accusers only came forward after his death.

“I’m not surprised by that,” said Talach. “People wait for a juncture in their life where they can deal with it. Sometimes people wait until their elderly, very Catholic parents pass away. There are triggers that are very individual to every person.”

The hockey rink in Cap-Pele had been named after Leger, but once the allegations surfaced, the village council voted to change the name and the sign was quickly removed.

Former Supreme Court of Canada judge Michel Bastarache was hired in 2012 to conduct a reconciliation and compensation process for alleged victims of sexual abuse involving priests. He had to delay his final report a number of times because more people kept coming forward with their stories.

At the time, Bastarache said payments to 80 people ranged from $15,000 to $300,000 each.

But others have emerged since, and turned to the courts.

Moncton Archbishop Valery Vienneau was not available Wednesday to comment, but he told CBC the church is going through a very difficult time.

In 2012, when Vienneau was bishop-administrator of the Diocese of Bathurst, he issued a statement dealing with abuse by priests.

“I ask the victims and their families and the people of our diocese for forgiveness on behalf of my deceased predecessors. People in the past did not recognize the damages caused by sexual abuse on the minds and dispositions of victims. In today’s world, assisted by professionals and their research, we know that past approaches were wrong and that some people do suffer,” Vienneau wrote.

Talach said the reconciliation process shook a lot of people and prompted them to come forward, and he expects that to continue for some time.

“I would be surprised if any of these complaints are from the 1990s. You’re looking at the 80s, 70s and 60s. It’s part of the human condition that you have to reach a certain level in your life that you’re willing to go back to deal with something that was a trauma in your childhood,” he said.

Talach — who has represented complainants in similar cases across the country — said many of the victims were only young boys when they were abused.

The Roman Catholic Church has faced similar accusations in jurisdictions around the world.

In September, Pope Francis acknowledged the Catholic Church was “a bit late” in realizing the damage done by priests who rape and molest children, and said that the decades-long practice of moving pedophiles around rather than sanctioning them was to blame.

Francis met Sept. 21 for the first time with his sex abuse advisory commission, a group of outside experts named in 2014 to advise him and the Catholic Church on best practices to keep pedophiles out of the priesthood and protect children.

In its three years, the sex abuse commission has held educational workshops in dioceses around the world, but has faced such stiff resistance to some of its proposals at the Vatican that its most prominent member, Irish abuse survivor Marie Collins, resigned in frustration in March.

Published on November 15, 2017

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