Quebec court approves sexual assault class-action suit against Frères du Sacré-Coeur

In 2016, lawyers launched an initial class action alleging abuse at a boarding school run by the Catholic missionary order in Granby. Since then, alleged victims from other institutions run by the congregation have come forward.

26 institutions named in 2nd lawsuit against Catholic missionary order

A class-action lawsuit, launched in 2016 and authorized in 2017, alleging sexual assault at Mont-Sacré-Coeur College in Granby, Que., led to a second, provincewide class action. (Radio-Canada)

A Quebec Superior Court judge has authorized a second class-action lawsuit against the Frères du Sacré-Coeur, on behalf of all Quebecers who claim to have been sexually assaulted by members of the Roman Catholic missionary order.

This lawsuit, filed in February, came after a separate class action launched in 2016 that focused on events alleged to have occurred at a boarding school in Granby run by the congregation.

Since then, more alleged victims from other Frères du Sacré-Coeur institutions in Quebec have come forward, and the law firm Kugler Kandestin, which is representing alleged victims in the first suit, filed a second class action on their behalf. 

Justice Christian Immer authorized that second lawsuit earlier this week, in a 22-page judgment. The lawsuit involves the Frères du Sacré-Coeur and three other legal entities related to the congregation. 

The newly authorized class action will seek compensatory damages — $450,000 in non-pecuniary damages and $500,000 in pecuniary damages — for each of the alleged victims, as well as $15 million in collective punitive damages.

Robert Kugler, a lawyer representing the alleged victims, said more than 100 people have come forward, so far.

"We're continuing to get calls from people on a weekly basis," he said. 

"They have kept silent for many years thinking they were the only ones, when they were not."

The law firm says anyone who claims to be a victim is encouraged to get in touch, to inquire about the case and their rights.

Alleged abuse widespread

The class action alleges that sexual assaults have been perpetrated for decades, across several institutions in Quebec, by several dozen religious members of the Frères du Sacré-Coeur.

The list submitted by Kugler Kandestin includes 26 institutions, including ones in Montreal, Montérégie, Quebec City, central Quebec, the Eastern Townships, Charlevoix, Bas-Saint-Laurent and Gaspésie.

These institutions include schools, orphanages and summer camps. 

The list includes the names of 25 clergy suspected of perpetrating assaults.

Kugler Kandestin's first initial class action, authorized by Quebec's Superior Court in 2017, is on behalf of alleged victims of sexual assault at Mont Sacré-Coeur College, a boarding school in Granby.

Kugler hopes both these cases will "deter this order and others from allowing such abuse to take place on a systematic basis." 

The law firm Fasken Martineau Dumoulin is representing the legal entities that make up the Frères du Sacré-Coeur.

With files from Franca Mignacca and La Presse Canadienne