Montreal

Westmount reaches settlement in hockey coach sex abuse case

The City of Westmount says it has reached an out-of-court settlement with those who were sexually abused by John Garland, a longtime hockey coach and employee in the parks and recreation department. ​

Longtime employee John Garland 'misused his position of power and trust,' city says

Matthew Bissonnette, a former Westmount resident, is the lead plaintiff. (Elias Abboud/CBC)

The City of Westmount says it has reached a tentative out-of-court settlement with those who were sexually abused by John Garland, a longtime hockey coach and employee in the parks and recreation department. ​

 Five victims have come forward so far but others may still join the class-action suit. The settlement is for $100,000 per person, for a maximum total of $2.5 million.

The agreement still requires the approval of a Quebec Superior Court judge.

"We hope that the settlement can in some small way help with the healing process," Mayor Peter Trent told a news conference on Tuesday.

The lead plaintiff, former Westmount resident Matthew Bissonnette, said he was satisfied with the settlement.

"There are answers, there is hope and there is justice," he said, adding that he's hopeful the result encourages other victims of abuse to come forward.

3 decades with the city

Garland, who died in 2012, worked in the City of Westmount's parks and recreation department between 1953 and 1987, and was also peewee hockey coach.

John Garland worked for the Westmount's parks and recreation department for more than three decades. (CBC)

"Mr. Garland misused his position of power and trust to abuse sexually some of the children and teenagers in his care," the City of Westmount said in a statement released late Monday.

"The City acknowledges that the effects of sexual abuse can last a lifetime and be devastating for victims, their families, and a community. This is particularly true when the abuse is directed at the most vulnerable among us, our children."

Bissonnette, now a film director, filed the class-action lawsuit in 2015, prompting several others to come forward.

In its statement, Westmount said that rather "than fighting a lengthy legal battle with the survivors, the city chose early on to conduct an investigation, to work with Mr. Bissonnette, to find a way to provide meaningful compensation to class members and to design a simple and discreet process for victims to come forward while maintaining strict confidentiality."

with files from Elias Abboud

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