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Deaf Students Abused By Priests Win $30-Million

Deaf News - Deaf students abused by priests at Clercs de St. Viateur win record $30-million settlement in Quebec, Canada.

MONTREAL, PQ -- For the 150 victims, Deaf and severely traumatized, it took decades to come forward with their accounts of sexual abuse at the hands of the Clercs de Saint-Viateur.

But they finally named the 33 priests and religious staff and five lay people who they say abused them at the Montreal Institute for the Deaf, a boarding-school for young boys run by the Clercs, and on Wednesday they were awarded $30 million – by far the largest settlement for sexual assault in Quebec history.

At the top of the list is Father Anthime Paiement, accused of sexual assault by 24 young boys at the Institute. Most of the boys were around 10 or 11 years old at the time; some were as young as seven. Paiement’s obituary in 1998, at the age of 91, said he devoted his entire life to the Deaf, as a teacher and chaplain at the Institute, among other places.

Then came Brother Philippe Paquette, who 10 victims said repeatedly assaulted them, in the dormitory or the classrooms or priests’ quarters, where he lived from 1949 to 1984.

According to his obituary, his tasks included teaching the “little ones,” surveillance, cinema, and discipline. He died in 2009 at the age of 82.

Brother Gérard Barrette, meanwhile, was accused by seven plaintiffs in the class action suit of anal rape, among other things. Perhaps he is still alive.

The abuse spanned from 1940 to 1982. Some of the victims were abused over the Christmas holidays. Some were abused throughout their first year at the school on St-Laurent Blvd. in Villeray in 1962. Others were assaulted on a regular basis, over their entire stay – up to seven years’ time.

The list of abusers also includes the director of the institute, the nurse, the dormitory supervisor, and the priest at the confessional. According to one victim, the boys soon stopped going to confession. Another said he was abused by a priest, and when he sought help at the infirmary, he was assaulted there too.

For Robert Kugler, who has represented the victims since the class action lawsuit was launched in 2010, the amount of the award reflects the extent of the abuse and the vulnerability of the victims.

“All the victims were handicapped – they were Deaf and had difficulty communicating. They were stuck,” said Kugler, of the firm Kugler Kandestin. “It’s simply tragic.”

While no amount of money can replace what the victims lost in their lives, Kugler continued, it can help them move forward, get therapy and improve the rest of their lives.

The Clercs de Saint-Viateur du Canada will pay $20 million, while the Institut Raymond-Dewar – the new name for the Montreal Institute for the Deaf, as of 1984 – will pay $10 million.

If divided equally among the 150 victims, the $30 million would amount to $200,000 each.

But Kugler expects more victims will likely come forward, now that they have reason to believe it will lead to compensation. And an adjudicator, former Court of Appeals Judge André Forget, will be tasked with interviewing the plaintiffs, in private, to determine whether they deserve the base amount of compensation, 25 per cent more, or 50 per cent more, depending on the gravity of the abuse, and the gravity of the consequences of the abuse.

In 2011, the Congrégation de Sainte-Croix accepted to pay $18 million to former students who were sexually abused between 1950 and 1991 by members of the order in various schools, including Notre-Dame College in Montreal. Read The Full Story.

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