As of the middle part of last week three more individuals had come forward to join a civil lawsuit, alleging that when they were young boys they were sexually abused by Father Adolphe LeBlanc.
That brought to six the number of people who are seeking answers and damages from the Roman Catholic church. And it is expected there will be more people who come forward.
The lawsuit was originally filed against the Archdiocese of Halifax and the Diocese of Yarmouth on behalf of former Wedgeport resident Kenneth Boudreau, Wedgeport resident Raymond Boudreau and another person who wishes to remain anonymous.
Joining the lawsuit are Del Boudreau, a businessman in the Municipality of Argyle (his story is told in this issue of the Vanguard) and two other men who don’t want their names made public.
“We did also get a call from another gentleman in Salmon River but he doesn’t want his name published,” says Aaron Lealess, of the law firm Ledroit and Beckett, which is proceeding with the civil litigation. “He just called to talk. He’s not wanting to go forward with the lawsuit at this time.”
Father LeBlanc, who was from Concession, graduated from College Ste. Anne. He was ordained in 1924 and spent time in parishes in Yarmouth, Amherst, Comeau’s Hill, Salmon River and Wedgeport. He was in Wedgeport from 1955 to 1964. He retired in December 1969 for health reasons and lived with his sister in Concession. He died two years later in mid-January 1971.
While each person who joins the lawsuit will be seeking damages of more than $2 million, Lealess admits it’s unlikely that if successful each person would get that full amount.
But those who are involved in the lawsuit that have spoken with the Vanguard say this isn’t just about money. They say more so, it is about righting a wrong that was committed against them and others, and also about bringing change in how these matters are handled.
The lawsuit says the plantiffs have spent the formative years of their lives struggling to deal with the physical, mental, psychological and emotional aftermath of their abuse.
“Through the lawsuit we’re seeking access to the Catholic church’s records and documents about Father LeBlanc...We don’t know if he’s ever been reported to the police, or if the bishop knew...we’re looking for that kind of information,” says Lealess, whose firm focuses on representing victims of sexual abuse.
In this case, because the priest being accused of sexual abuse is dead, the option of proceeding through the criminal court does not exist. Lealess says the civil process allows for a couple of things: it can provide compensation for the victims and it is an incentive for the diocese to change its policies.
“Firms have petitioned for other dioceses to open up counseling for victims, to issue public apologies,” says Lealess. “We’re also trying to have them have a policy of defrocking priests who have been confirmed to be abusers. That’s the Catholic church’s protocol for firing a priest.”
Following a Jan. 21 news conference in Halifax about the civil lawsuit, Archbishop Anthony Mancini, speaking on behalf of the Archdiocese of Halifax and the Yarmouth Diocese, issued a statement.
“In my capacity as Archbishop, I will do my utmost to ensure that clergy and other pastoral workers are held to the highest standard, and that there is an appropriate response to allegations of past or current abuse,” he said.
Contacted last week to discuss the matter further, Marilyn Sweet, communications officer for the Archdiocese of Halifax, said the archbishop will not be making any further comment on the issue. She said the archdiocese is in discussion with its lawyer about the matter.
Meanwhile, the law firm that is representing those who have come forward would like to hear from others who were associated with Father LeBlanc and/or also have claims of abuse. People can phone 1-866-674-4994 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.