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Catholic priest sexual abuse class action will move forward, Nova Scotia court decides

Archdiocese has policy of secrecy when dealing with alleged sexual abusers, class plaintiff says

Catholic priest sexual abuse class action will move forward, Nova Scotia court decides
The Nova Scotia Supreme Court has certified a class action against the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth.

The Nova Scotia Supreme Court has certified a class action filed on behalf of individuals alleging sexual assault or battery by priests from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth from 1960 until the present.

The statement of claim alleged that the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of Halifax-Yarmouth, which is the formal name of the Archdiocese, knew of numerous acts of sexual abuse committed by its priests, with at least four priests being criminally convicted of sexual assault.

The Archdiocese would send priests accused of sexual misconduct to a treatment facility, then would allow these priests to return to their parishes, without bothering to notify or to warn parishioners, said the statement of claim.

Douglas Champagne, class plaintiff, alleged that he was sexually assaulted by Father George Epoch, which resulted in lasting and permanent impacts on his life. The class action claimed that the Archdiocese has a policy of secrecy, spanning decades, regarding priests accused of sexual misconduct.

The statement of claim raised breach of fiduciary duty, negligence, and vicarious liability as the causes of action. The statement of claim sought damages for physical, mental, emotional, psychological, and spiritual harm and punitive damages for the high-handed and callous conduct of the Archdiocese.

Class counsel include John McKiggan, a Halifax-based lawyer working at McKiggan Hebert Lawyers, and Toronto-based firm Koskie Minsky LLP.

“Fear of public disclosure prevents many victims of childhood abuse from breaking the silence about what happened to them and seeking help,” said John McKiggan on the website for the class action. “The advantage of a class action is that it allows survivors claims to be resolved in a respectful and private fashion that protects vulnerable victims of abuse.”

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