Montreal

At least 15 claim religious brothers at Granby school sexually abused them, lawyer says

The lawyer representing the lead plaintiff in a request to proceed with a class-action lawsuit against Mont-Sacré-Coeur College and Les Frères du Sacré-Coeur says there could be more than 100 victims, spanning decades.

Lead plaintiff in class-action suit request claims he was abused more than 300 times in the 1970s

The lead plaintiff in the class-action request, a 56-year-old man, claims several students would line up in front of Father Claude Lebeau's room.

At least 15 people have come forward alleging they were sexually abused at a boarding school in Granby in the 1970s, according to the lawyer representing one plaintiff.

A 56-year-old man filed a request for a class-action lawsuit Wednesday, alleging he was sexually abused more than 300 hundred times by a religious brother, Claude Lebeau, at Mont-Sacré-Coeur College between 1973 and 1975.

The request was filed against a religious congregation, Les Frères du Sacré-Coeur, which owns the now-secular school.

Robert Kugler, the lawyer for the alleged victim, said over the last 24 hours, he has been getting non-stop calls from other people who say they were sexually assaulted at the same school.

Although many of the people who have come forward claimed they were sexually abused by Lebeau, Kugler says other members of the congregation have been accused as well.

The lead plaintiff, who was not named in the request, said the abuse by Lebeau began when he was in the ninth grade. He said Lebeau invited him to his room, asked him to take off his pyjama pants and proceeded to touch him sexually.

The abuse occurred three to six times a week over the next two years, according to the plaintiff. He is seeking $1 million in damages, but Kugler said the amount could grow as more people are added to the class-action request.

A lawyer for Les Frères Sacré Du Sacré-Coeur said the congregation will not oppose the class-action request and plans to co-operate during the proceedings.

Lebeau is believed to be living in the Montreal area.

Depression and anxiety

The lead plaintiff's life went into a tailspin after he left the private school in 1975, according to the class-action request documents.

The request outlines how the plaintiff dropped out of school, later becoming an alcoholic before checking into a rehabilitation facility in 1991.

The plaintiff said he has been dealing with anxiety, depression and self-esteem issues since the alleged abuse and is now seeking therapy.

As many as 100 victims

At the time the class-action request was filed, Kugler said he believed there could be as many as 100 victims from that school.

''Based on what has happened [the number of people who have come forward], we wouldn't be surprised if it exceeded 100," he said. "The telephone, really, has not stopped."

Carlo Tarini, a spokesperson for the Quebec Association of Victims of Priests, said he's not surprised people are now speaking out.

"When one victim comes forward, it tells other victims that they can do so [as well]," Tarini said. "The victims are allowed to maintain their anonymity."