Settlement reached in Rideau Regional class-action lawsuit

Tentative settlements totalling $32.7 million have been reached for former residents of two Ontario institutions for the developmentally disabled who alleged they were abused at the facilities.

$20.6M for Rideau and nearly $12.1M for Southwestern must still be approved by judge

Tentative settlements totalling $32.7 million have been reached for former residents of two Ontario institutions for the developmentally disabled who alleged they were abused at the facilities.

The class-action suits were launched by former residents of the Rideau Regional Centre in Smiths Falls, Ont., and the Southwestern Regional Centre near Chatham, Ont.

The plaintiffs claim that physical abuse, mental abuse and the unnecessary administration of medication took place at Rideau Regional from 1963 to its closing in 2009.

The settlements — which a lawyer for the lawsuits says amount to $20.6 million for Rideau and nearly $12.1 million for Southwestern — must still be approved by a judge.

"We're happy with the amount. We think it's a good compromise between everyone," said Jody Brown, an associate lawyer with Koskie Minsky in Toronto, the firm representing the former residents. If the matter had gone to trial in 2015, Brown said, they could have lost.

"We think it will give good compensation to people and importantly, it will get it to them now."

"The tentative settlements reached today are a turning point that I hope will help former residents to heal," said Ontario Attorney General John Gerretsen in a statement.

"I am pleased that we will now be able to present them to the court for its consideration."

'I still dream about memories about it,' former resident says

David McKillop, 63, is the suit's representative plaintiff, who represents the plaintiffs and their best interests.

He moved into Rideau Regional when he was four years old.

"I got beaten up by staff, sexual assault, everything ... You couldn't do [anything] about it. ... You couldn't say [anything] at that time," McKillop said by phone from Gananoque, Ont., on Tuesday. "I still dream about memories about it. ... We're going to get help for that, too.

"I wanted to make sure the government paid for it, what they did to us."

McKillop said he's pleased a settlement was reached, but he doesn't think the government is paying enough.

The plaintiffs alleged that physical and mental abuse as well as the unnecessary administration of medication took place at the institutions between 1963 to when they closed late in the 2000s. The Rideau Regional Centre closed in 2009 and the Southwestern Regional Centre closed in 2008.

Anyone who lived at Rideau Regional between 1963 and 2009, who were also alive as of Sept. 24, 2008 and suffered abuse at the institution, can claim compensation. The compensation will be based on a point system of harm, similar to residential school settlements.

The maximum amount that can be claimed starts at $35,000, Brown said. If all claimants are paid and any money is left over, the maximum can be increased to about $42,000.

The deals come after a judge earlier this month approved a similar $35-million class-action settlement for former residents of the Huronia Regional Centre in Orillia, Ont.

Premier Kathleen Wynne formally apologized for the pain and loss that have permanently marked hundreds of former residents of the now-shuttered Huronia facility.

She acknowledged the other two centres in her speech, but did not extend her apology to those who had lived there.

Brown said that in addition to the financial statement, Wynne will apologize for the abuse at Rideau Regional and Southwestern Regional. A plaque will also be installed and some documents from the litigation will be made public.

With files from The Canadian Press