Class action suit launched against pedophile ex-priest Ralph Rowe

Scouts Canada, Synod of the Diocese of Canada and former priest Ralph Rowe, who has been convicted of 75 sex crimes, are the subject of a $110M lawsuit launched Thursday.

Former boy scout leader, ex-priest Ralph Rowe is believed to have as many as 500 victims

Ralph Rowe, a former Anglican priest, pilot and Scoutmaster, molested dozens of boys in northern communities in Manitoba and Ontario. Investigators suspect Rowe molested more than 100 victims over the years, while mental health authorities in the north say the tally could be as high as 500.

A former priest convicted of 75 sex crimes is facing a multi-million dollar lawsuit along with his employer, the Anglican Church's Synod of the Diocese of Keewatin and Scouts Canada with whom he volunteered.

Ralph Rowe flew his own plane into remote First Nations in northwestern Ontario in the 1970s and 80s. First Nations leaders and mental health professionals who work in the region estimate as many as 500 people were abused by him. For all his convictions, Rowe served less than five years in jail.

Dozens of men who were victims of Rowe settled previous suits against the Anglican Church and Scouts Canada but lawyer Jonathan Ptak, whose firm launched the class action on Thursday, says this case aims to bring public awareness and policy changes along with the $110 million claim for damages.

"There's never been a light shone on this horrific and very important story involving rampant sexual abuse of Aboriginal youth in Canada's north," Ptak said. 

"There have been some individual settlements but there's never been an opportunity such as this class action where all the victims can come forward, have their stories be told and hopefully we can bring about some real change in the policies and practices in the organizations that employ these people," he said.

Alvin McKay, 39, of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug, launched the lawsuit. 

The statement of claim states that McKay was sexually assaulted at least three times by Rowe over the course of two years, beginning when McKay was five.

Ralph Rowe, 77, who was convicted of 75 sex crimes in northern Ontario First Nations communities, served less than five years in jail. (Kenora Daily Miner and News) (Kenora Daily Miner and News)
Rowe's involvement with youth as a Scoutmaster and priest was "motivated by a sinister desire to gratify his improper sexual appetite for young boys," the statement of claim says.

Damages are being claimed for "physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual harm" suffered by McKay and others expected to sign on to the suit.

Ptak said the case will give Rowe's actions "a public face and a public accounting which is really important because of its historical implications and also because of the devastation that he, Mr. Rowe, brought on so many northern communities."

None of the allegations in the suit have been proven in court. The court needs to certify it before it can proceed as a class action — a process that could take months.