VANCOUVER — The Archdiocese of Vancouver and a private Catholic school have denied wrongdoing over claims of sexual abuse from former students and have filed their own lawsuits against the alleged abusers.
The archdiocese and St. Thomas More Collegiate in Burnaby filed separate lawsuits last week against the men who belonged to a Catholic order and transferred to B.C. from Mount Cashel, the Newfoundland orphanage notorious for the sexual abuse that took place there.
The claims come soon after a court certified a class-action lawsuit by students, naming the archdiocese, St. Thomas More Collegiate and others as defendants, alleging abuse by members of the Christian Brothers at the school and Vancouver College, another Catholic private institution.
The statement of claim filed by the archdiocese denies it oversaw the two schools or had any authority over major decisions and names six men as well as the B.C. government as defendants, saying the Ministry of Education had the authority to inspect private schools and to revoke or suspend teachers' certificates.
The claim filed by St. Thomas More Collegiate names five men as well as the Christian Brothers and its branches in Canada and North America, saying it is unaware of any specific instances of abuse by members of the religious order — but the defendants themselves would be at fault for any abuse that did occur.
The lawsuits, whose claims have not been proven in court, say the archdiocese and St. Thomas More Collegiate are seeking a declaration that they're entitled to indemnity against the claims made in the class-action lawsuit.
The class-action, which was certified by a B.C. Supreme Court judge this month, alleges that senior members of the Christian Brothers orchestrated the transfers of the six men, despite knowing about the abuse they perpetrated at Mount Cashel.
It says the Christian Brothers did not act to protect children in their care, but to protect the abusers from criminal charges by moving them out of Newfoundland.
The class-action lawsuit says one of the six men, Edward English, confessed to abusing children at Mount Cashel before he was transferred, and all six were later convicted of sexually or physically abusing orphans at the Newfoundland facility.
The court action was filed on behalf of all students enrolled at St. Thomas More Collegiate between 1976 and 1989 who claim they were physically or sexually abused by current or former members of the Christian Brothers, and students who allege abuse while enrolled at Vancouver College between 1976 and 2013.
The class members have suffered significant damage, it says, including pain and suffering, psychological injuries, addiction issues, inability to have normal and healthy sexual development, as well as spiritual trauma and loss of faith.
The claim says the plaintiffs want a declaration that English abused them, and the defendants are liable for that abuse, as well as an award for damages for negligence, health care costs and punitive and aggravated damages.
The response to the lawsuit filed by Vancouver College denies that any breach of common law or statutory duty on its part contributed to the alleged abuses.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 28, 2023.
The Canadian Press