In a significant development, the Montreal Roman Catholic archdiocese has reached a settlement of $14.7 million in a class-action lawsuit pertaining to sex abuse cases. The plaintiffs’ lawyer confirmed that the settlement will be presented to a judge for approval in the coming weeks.
The lawsuit, initially filed in 2019 and authorized by Quebec Superior Court in 2021, sought to address the victims of sexual abuse perpetrated by priests and lay employees associated with the archdiocese since 1940.
The lead plaintiff in this class action was a victim of Brian Boucher, a former priest who has since been defrocked and was convicted in 2019 for sexually abusing two boys under his care. Boucher received an eight-year prison sentence.
It is important to note that the settlement agreement specifically covers abuse committed by diocesan priests, excluding those belonging to specific religious orders, as explained by Alain Arsenault, the plaintiffs’ lawyer.
The approval of the settlement by the Quebec Superior Court is anticipated in the following weeks, and a request for an extension is likely to be made to allow a maximum number of victims to come forward and participate.
It is crucial for victims of priests affiliated with the Montreal archdiocese to promptly contact the legal representatives, urging them not to delay until the last moment, Arsenault emphasized. Furthermore, victims from other dioceses are encouraged to reach out and register their cases as well.
Currently, Arsenault’s law firm is handling 18 open cases involving various dioceses and religious congregations. This settlement with the Montreal archdiocese marks the first time in Quebec that a class-action lawsuit against a diocese has been resolved, according to Arsenault.
The agreement is designed to accommodate a maximum of 123 victims based on the number of individuals who have already come forward. However, this figure could potentially be much higher. If additional victims step forward, the settlement will be reopened to negotiate additional compensation.
To determine the allocation of funds among victims who have experienced different types of abuse and suffer from distinct long-term effects, an adjudicator—retired judge—will be appointed.
Arsenault commended the willingness of Archbishop Christian Lépine to address historic abuse and stated that the archdiocese has been receptive to a settlement from the outset. The Montreal archdiocese issued a brief statement welcoming the settlement and expressing hope that it will be approved by the court, facilitating a more peaceful healing process for the victims.