Ottawa man launches $4.5M suit against Scouts Canada over sexual abuse claims

March 8, 2018

By: Andrew Duffy, Ottawa Citizen

Beckett Personal Injury Office's Scales of Justice's article image

The civil lawsuit, launched last month by a man identified only as C.M., alleges that he was abused by scout leader John Allan Brown after meeting him in 1977. C.M. was then a 13-year-old boy scout in Brockville, and Brown was a leader with the 8th District Scout Troop.

According to a statement of claim filed in the case, Brown befriended C.M., took him on camping trips and brought him back to his Brockville home, where he repeatedly sexually assaulted him.

Brown died in an Ontario prison in March 2010 — 13 years after he was declared a dangerous offender because of his sex crimes.

C.M.’s lawyer, Rob Talach, contends that Brown used the position and uniform given to him by Scouts Canada to facilitate the abuse — and to ensure that the boy scout did not tell anyone about it.

“(The) authority personified by the uniform granted to him by Scouts Canada created an opportunity and the requisite psychological intimacy for Brown to exert power and authority over the plaintiff,” Talach said.

Talach intends to argue that Scouts Canada failed in its duty to protect C.M. from Brown, or to warn about the potential risks involved in taking part in scouting activities. He contends Scouts Canada knew they had sexual predators in their midst at the time but kept that information secret.

Scouts Canada denied that allegation.

By the mid-1970s, the claim alleges, “Scouts Canada had at least two decades of records and data sufficient to constitute legal notice that they had an organization-wide problem with sexual abuse of minors.”

In the 1950s, the claim contends, Scouts Canada began compiling a “confidential list” with the names of volunteers deemed “not satisfactory” to work with young people because of their “sexual perversion, immorality or gross misconduct.” (CBC’s The Fifth Estate first disclosed the existence of the list in October 2011.)

But Scouts Canada kept that list confidential, the claim says, and failed to put measures in place to prevent the kind of abuse suffered by C.M.

None of the allegations has been tested in court.

In a written statement, Scouts Canada spokesman John Petitti said Wednesday that “nothing is more important to Scouts Canada than the safety and well-being of the children and youth entrusted in our care.

“Unfortunately, there have been instances in the past where Scouting youth have been harmed, and for that we are deeply sorry,” Petitti said, adding that the organization has done its best to help victims in their healing process.

C.M. is now 53 years old and has suffered from relationship problems, anger issues and suicidal thoughts throughout his adult life. “I’ve lost so much in my life,” he said in an interview. “I believe the only way I’m going to get any closure is if I address this: I feel I have to man up and face the shame, the guilt and the embarrassment.”

Following the 2011 CBC report, Scouts Canada hired the firm KPMG to conduct a review of its handling of sexual misconduct claims within its ranks.

The report examined 486 cases of alleged sexual misconduct dating back to the 1940s. It found that, in 65 of those cases, the allegations had not been reported to police when they first came to light. All of them have now been reported to authorities.

Petitti said the KPMG review “found no systemic intent to cover up or hide an individual or abuse incident.”

After the review, Scouts Canada strengthened its child and youth protection measures with new policies on bullying, abuse reporting and volunteer screening. The organization introduced criminal record checks and screening interviews for all of its volunteers in 1997. Soon after, it put in place a “two-deep rule” that requires at least two approved officials to be present during all scouting activities.

One man’s story of abuse

The Ottawa man suing Scouts Canada for negligence says the childhood sexual abuse that he suffered left him scarred and suicidal.

The 53-year-old man, identified in court documents as C.M., told this newspaper in an interview that he joined Brockville’s 8th District Scout Troop at the age of 13 because he had enjoyed his experience as a cub scout.

“It was really nice, the camping and whatnot,” he said.

He first encountered scout leader John Brown at one of the troop’s regular meetings at Brockville’s St. Mary’s Catholic High School. Brown, he said, was friendly and helpful, and asked a lot of questions. “He figured out who was who, who had problems at home, who was with a single parent, who was ostracized, that kind of thing.”

C.M. had been adopted at the age of four, but his stepfather was physically abusive.

Brown built a relationship with him as a father figure. “It started off rather simple,” he said. “He’d give you rides home, and he’d always go to the door and reassure my stepmother at the time. It progressed from there.”

Brown, he said, would invite him back to his house where they’d work on car mechanics, cook french fries together and wrestle. It all seemed harmless enough, he said, until Brown revealed himself as a “monster” and “deviant.”

Once it started, the sexual abuse escalated quickly, and most of the incidents occurred at Brown’s home, he said. It only ended when C.M. bled after being sodomized, he said. “I was freaked out, and said that I think I should go to the hospital. John Brown freaked out and hit me. He threatened that if I ever told anybody, he’d kill me. That eliminated any doubts in my mind. Now I knew clearly that this is wrong, and everything’s gone off the rails.”

C.M. ran away from home and attempted suicide with an overdose of prescription medication. He never returned to the Scouts.

The abuse, he said, had a drastic effect on his life. He has never been able to trust people and has difficulty forming lasting relationships. “Anything good in life I’ve either lost or ran away from,” he said.

He has spent time on the streets, and has worked off and on as an oil burner mechanic and driving instructor.

C.M. said he launched the lawsuit because he believes “it’s the only way I’ll get any closure or any happiness.”

A spokesman for Scouts Canada said he could not speak to the specifics of C.M.’s case.

Published on March 7, 2018

Beckett Personal Injury Office In Downtown London

December 5, 2023

No-Fault Accident Benefits

You may be entitled to receive certain no fault accident benefits if you were injured a car accident, regardless of who is at-fault for the accident. These benefits are in addition to potential sources of compensation you have through private or work sponsored insurance policies.

Read More
Beckett Personal Injury Office In Downtown London

November 29, 2023

Understanding Human Trafficking: Your Rights and How We Can Help

Learn more about the complexities of the human trafficking issue and how best to protect yourself legally.

Read More
Beckett Personal Injury Office In Downtown London

November 14, 2023

Reporting Sexual Abuse: Understanding the Criminal and Civil Processes

In this article, we will provide a clear overview of the criminal and civil processes of sexual abuse cases, and explain why reporting the abuse to the police is often advised before pursuing a civil lawsuit.

Read More