N.B. Church Sex Assault Report Delivered

November 1, 2010

By: CBC News

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Former Supreme Court justice Michel Bastarache met with the bishop of the Diocese of Bathurst to present his recommendations for compensation for victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy in northern New Brunswick.

Former Supreme Court justice Michel Bastarache met with the bishop of the Diocese of Bathurst on Monday to present his recommendations for compensation for victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy in northern New Brunswick.

Bastarache, the bishop and the lawyer for the Diocese met behind closed doors, refusing to speak with reporters. Both sides had previously been open to speaking with the media.

The diocese hired Bastarache earlier this year after Levi Noel, an 84-year-old former priest, was convicted of 22 sex-related offences and Charles Picot, a former priest who had worked in Dalhousie, was charged with indecent assault. Picot's trial has yet to take place.

Bastarache's report is the final step in a conciliation process that was aimed at avoiding a court battle. But nine of the 45 victims Bastarache met with opted out of conciliation.

Robert Talach, an Ontario-based lawyer who is representing some of those victims who still want a court battle, said there is a feeling among many of the individuals that they are tired of taking orders from the Catholic church.

"It's a system, which has been dictated to them by the diocese, and for many of them they feel that the days of being dictated to by the diocese are over with," Talach said.

"Some of them went to the diocese in the past and got no appropriate response, so they've lost faith in that institution doing the right thing."

One lawsuit has been launched already, and he said more are in the works.

"Victims want a transparent open and public process. Not all of them want their identity out there, but they want the size and nature and details of the problem public," Talach said.

"That system that the diocese proposed does not have that element."

Donald Landry, one of Noel's victims, said handing out money is not the answer.

"From the beginning, transparency has been missing, and now they think they can give compensation. We feel it's their way of trying to make us forget, to put us aside, but abuse isn't something you can put aside and forget," he said.

"We will work to make sure that new incidents don't happen, that they never happen again. Unfortunately, the risks are always there. We want to protect the rights of children and stop sexual abuse of children. This will be difficult because the diocese has never wanted to meet with us before. They haven't been transparent."

Compensation package

Bastarache said in an interview last week that in his meetings with victims, it was revealed that other priests in the diocese, who have not been named, or charged, have also been accused of abuse.

The retired Supreme Court justice handed in a report to the bishop outlining how many people have come forward and how much each person should be compensated.

Bastarache designed a compensation package that set out a scale for potential payment.

He set up five categories of alleged assaults that range from unwanted touching to sexual assault. He then created subcategories that dealt with the long-term consequences of the assaults, such as the individual's inability to finish school, whether they were able to hold a job or, in some cases, their decision to attempt suicide.

Bastarache said he then reviewed various legal precedents for compensation given to other sexual assault victims to come up with a payment range.

It will be up to the bishop to decide how much money will be paid out to the victims, and whether the information will be made public.

Once the church makes its compensation decision, Bastarache said he will hand out the cheques by the end of November or into December.

Under the terms of the conciliation process, Bastarache agreed to keep the names of the victims anonymous, so the church will not see the names and the retired judge will personally hand out the cheques.

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