MONTREAL -- The owners of a Quebec private seniors residence say they are determined to redeem their reputations and will take several government ministers to court to do so.

Jean-Francois Bertrand, a lawyer representing the owners of Liverpool Manor, said his clients have been scapegoated by a provincial government that bears responsibility for the deteriorating quality of care in private residences.

Two weeks ago, a damning report concluded that many residents of the Liverpool Manor had suffered abuse. The report stated that for years the health, safety and general well-being of residents had been compromised due to serious shortcomings in care.

Health Minister Christian Dube and the minister responsible for seniors, Marguerite Blais, both denounced the facility's ownership, saying the situation was “unacceptable” and the owners must be held accountable.

But owners Manon Belleau and Claude Talbot said they are determined to continue operating.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Bertrand said he has received a mandate from his clients to take legal action in Quebec Superior Court to ensure the pair could continue housing seniors.

He said they want to restore their reputations, which were tarnished by the report and “defamatory comments made by” Dube and Blais.

“The ministers will have to answer for their words before the courts,” said Bertrand. “We will not accept that the government of Quebec weaponized this file and tried to use it for electoral purposes.”

Bertrand said that situations such as that found in Liverpool Manor are due to decades of lax oversight, chronic underfunding, staff shortages and heavy caseloads.

“Despite beautiful promises, they never did anything to improve the system of private seniors residences in Quebec,” he said.

The attorny also called for a public inquiry into what happened at Liverpool Manor, saying the recent investigation was flawed. In particular, he accused the regional health authority of not giving management access to the full report.

A provisional injunction has already been filed with Superior Court to counter the regional health authority's efforts to terminate agreements with Liverpool Manor for the transfer of users and to withdraw its certification.

The owners are claiming $700,000 in damages.  

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2021.