Seventeen men who claim they were sexually abused when they were boys at a seminary near Quebec City are expected to testify in court as part of a lawsuit against priests.

Court proceedings began today at the Quebec City courthouse for the largest sex abuse class-action lawsuit ever launched in Quebec.  

Fifty alleged victims are seeking $100,000 each in damages, plus interest.

Though there have been other civil lawsuits against Quebec priests and religious institutions, this class-action lawsuit is the first to make it to court and be heard by a Quebec judge. All of the others were settled out of court.

The day’s proceedings started with a visit to the St-Alphonse Seminary in Ste-Anne-de-Beaupré, just outside the provincial capital.

The judge, the lawyers and the person who launched the lawsuit, Frank Tremblay, visited the site where a number of boys were allegedly assaulted by the seminary’s priests in the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s.

The visit was followed in court by the testimony of Raymond-Marie Lavoie, the only priest to have been successfully pursued in criminal court.

Lavoie is currently serving a three-year sentence after pleading guilty in July 2011 to assaulting 13 boys during the era he supervised the seminary’s dormitory.

Another of the St-Alphonse priests, Jean-Claude Bergeron, was arrested at the same time as Lavoie and pleaded guilty to molesting three boys. He hasn’t been sentenced yet.

The others named in the lawsuit are Guy Pilote, François Plourde, Xiste Langevin, Hervé Blanchette, Alexis Trépanier, Léon Roy and Lucien de Blois. Many of them are dead.

The proceedings are scheduled to last 20 days.