Law firm seeks class action for alleged sexual assaults by priests in Diocese of Amos, Que.
Warning: This story contains graphic details of alleged sexual assault
A law firm representing men who say they were sexually assaulted by at least five priests when they were children is requesting authorization for a class action lawsuit against the entire Diocese of Amos, in Quebec’s Abitibi region.
The application, being presented in the Superior Court of the District of Abitibi on Tuesday, targets the Diocese of Amos and the Bishop of Amos for alleged crimes from 1940 to the present day.
The men say they were between the ages of seven and 14 at the time of the alleged assaults.
The plaintiff representing the class action is a 65-year-old man who cannot be identified. He alleges that he was sexually assaulted on several occasions when he was between seven and 11 years old.
The motion, led by Montreal law firm Arsenault Dufresne Wee, alleges that Father Paul-Émile Bilodeau, a catechism teacher at Notre-Dame-de-Fatima school in Val-d'Or, assaulted the plaintiff with anal sex between 1963 and 1967 in a small room at the school.
A few years later, while the plaintiff was an altar boy at Notre-Dame-de-Fatima church, Father Bilodeau allegedly sexually assaulted him again.
MULTIPLE ALLEGED ABUSERS AND ASSAULTS
The class action suit states that at least four other people have been sexually assaulted by priests from the Diocese of Amos.
It is alleged that Father Réal Couture committed about ten assaults in Parent on a boy between the ages of 10 and 14; Father Armand Roy allegedly committed about 30 assaults in Laferté and Launay on a boy who was then 12 years old; Father Lucien Côté allegedly committed several assaults in Authier-Nord on a boy who was between 10 and 11 years old and Father Hubert Fortier allegedly committed several assaults in Berry on a boy who was 12 to 13 years old.
In the case of the principal complainant, his attorneys say the plaintiff had informed his father of the sexual assaults allegedly inflicted by Bilodeau and a few weeks later, the Father was sent to Chibougamau.
CULTURE OF SILENCE AND COVER-UP
The petition accuses the diocese and the bishop at the time, Aldée Desmarais, of failing to investigate and crack down on crimes "in order to uphold the culture of silence.”
Lawyers argue that by doing so, "the defendants perpetuated the risk that Father Bilodeau would commit further sexual assaults and it is likely that such assaults were indeed committed while he was acting as a parish priest elsewhere.”
In the words of the plaintiff's lawyers, the diocese and the bishop “covered up the sexual assaults committed by their employee even though they had been informed of them.”
The petition states that as a result of the alleged abuse, the plaintiff made several suicide attempts between 1977 and 2005, suffered physical injuries and a multitude of psychological problems over many years, including anxiety, sleep difficulties, panic attacks, anger and irritability, drug use and homelessness.
The plaintiff is seeking a total of $600,000 from the defendants, including $300,000 in non-pecuniary damages for the injuries he suffered as a result of the alleged sexual assaults, $150,000 for his pecuniary losses and, given the severity and duration of his actions, $150,000 in punitive damages under the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.
The Diocese of Amos covers an immense territory of more than 125,000 square kilometres, serving a population of more than 76,000 people in 53 parishes.
The Arsenault Dufresne Wee Avocats law firm said anyone wishing to register for the class action can do so by contacting them.
- This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Dec. 7, 2021.