MONTREAL -- A Quebec clergy member pleaded guilty Wednesday morning to sexually abusing 12 students from the College Bourget boarding school in Rigaud where he was a supervisor during the 1980s.

Jean Pilon, a member of the Clerics of St-Viateur, was sentenced to three-and-a-half-years after the guilty plea at the Valleyfield Courthouse, outside of Montreal. 

The hearing was an emotional one as eight of his victims took the stand to tell the court how his abuse caused a lifetime of anxiety, depression, and shame.  

"It's hard to keep, it's a big — in French, 'un gros moton sur le coeur' — but you have to overcome all these events, and become a better person every day," said Brian Ford, one of the victims. 

When it was Pilon's turn to take the stand, he offered an apology and told the court he was "demolished inside" after hearing about the victims' suffering. Jeers could be heard from the courtroom, while others simply walked out not wanting to hear any more. 

The Surete du Quebec arrested Pilon in June 2020, when he was 78, along with four other congregation members in connection with sex crimes against young boys and girls that allegedly took place between 1961 and 1989.

The men were responsible for teaching children in several Quebec schools. 

Prosecutor Mylene Brown said it was "important" that Pilon pleaded guilty for all the victims in his case. The three-and-a-half-year sentence was agreed upon between the prosecution and defence, which the judge accepted. 

The guilty plea does not bring the case for Pilon to an end. A class action lawsuit is still underway, alleging the entire congregation of St-Viateur knew what was going on, but did nothing about it. 

Lawyers representing the victims in the lawsuit say a settlement is in the works, with more than 300 people allegedly being identified as defendants. 

With files from CTV News Montreal's Stephane Giroux

Correction:

A statement from lawyers for the class action lawsuit referred to Jean Pilon as a priest, but he was in fact a member of the clergy. CTV has updated the article to reflect the correction.