A man wants to sue a priest who was charged last year with sexually abusing him and several other young students under his watch at a school near Quebec City.
A civil action filed at the Montreal courthouse Thursday indicates one of the victims is seeking $750,000 from Rev. Raymond-Marie Lavoie, who used to work at the now defunct Saint-Alphonse Seminary in Ste-Anne-de-Beaupré, near Quebec City.
The statement of claim contains allegations not proven in court, and a Quebec Superior Court justice must authorize the suit for it to proceed.
Lavoie, 70, is facing 15 criminal charges related to the alleged abuse of at least nine youths under his care in the late 1970s and early '80s.
'We know that at least nine persons have filed criminal complaints against Rev. Lavoie and others might be forthcoming,'—Pierre Boivin, alleged victim's lawyer
He is currently out on bail pending the outcome of his case and has been suspended by the congregation.
Quebec provincial police are still investigating the Redemptorist priest, and the Crown said following a late January court appearance there could be other victims and other charges.
The civil suit also names as a defendant the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, based in Ste-Anne-de-Beaupré, which operated the school.
The suit alleges the congregation was also responsible for other priests who were in positions of authority at the school and who were allegedly implicit in the sexual abuse along with Lavoie.
A secretary who answered the telephone at the congregation offices said no one would be available to comment. Lavoie's criminal lawyer was also not available.
Plaintiff finds revisiting abuse 'overwhelming'
"We know that at least nine persons have filed criminal complaints against Rev. Lavoie and others might be forthcoming," said Montreal lawyer Pierre Boivin, who represents the alleged victim in his civil action.
"With this, my client hopes that other people, if indeed they were abused, will come forward."
The plaintiff, a 40 year-old Quebec City man, was just 12 when he started attending the school.
In addition to being a music teacher and director of student life at the school, Lavoie also watched over the dormitory.
The abuse of the plaintiff allegedly began in October 1982 and involved sexual touching and molestation over a period of four consecutive months before ending abruptly in 1983.
'He wants to help others because he knows there are other victims and the message is the victims are stronger united.' —Abuse victims' advocate France Bédard
Since then, according to the statement of claim, the plaintiff has suffered from psychological trauma, depression, alcohol abuse and sleeping problems.
The plaintiff authorized others to speak on his behalf on Thursday because revisiting the alleged abuse has been overwhelming, his lawyer said.
"He's nervous," Boivin said. "It's very difficult to come forward when something like that happens, but now that he has, he feels anxious but is also relieved."
Speaking separately on behalf of the plaintiff, abuse victims' advocate France Bédard said it was an important step for the man to seek justice for himself and other former students.
"Firstly, it was to break the silence and relieve himself of this heavy burden," Bédard said.
"Now he wants to help others because he knows there are other victims and the message is the victims are stronger united."
Bédard, who runs an organization that helps people who have been sexually abused by priests, said the message being sent through the lawsuit is aimed at the Roman Catholic Church in Canada.
Bédard said it's up to Marc Cardinal Ouellet, the church's top official in Canada, to speak out against sexual abuse and make things right.
"I hope Ouellet will act quickly to compensate the victims of these crimes, whose lives are broken because of it," said Bédard.
Lavoie's criminal case returns to court in May in Quebec City.