Nova Scotia man files suit against Roman Catholic Church alleging sexual abuse

Canadian Press/October 7, 2009

Hailifax, Nova Scotia - A Nova Scotia man has filed a lawsuit against two Roman Catholic districts alleging years of sexual abuse suffered at the hands of a pastor linked to the same diocese at the centre of an historic settlement for victims who made allegations of sexual assault.

In a statement of claim filed with the Nova Scotia Supreme Court, Philip Latimer alleges he was sexually molested by Rev. Allan MacDonald for four years when he was a pastor in the small seaside community of Havre Boucher.

The lawsuit names as defendants the archdiocese of Halifax and the diocese of Antigonish, the same district at the centre of the landmark sexual abuse settlement negotiated by Bishop Raymond Lahey, who is facing child pornography charges in Ottawa.

The alleged abuse started when Latimer was 11 years old and serving as an altar boy in the diocese of Antigonish, which until recently was overseen by Lahey.

The 22-page claim details the abuse allegedly suffered by Latimer as a boy at the hands of MacDonald, who has since died but was described in the court document as "well-known and highly trusted" in the area.

"The plaintiff was deprived of a normal childhood and adolescence as a result of the actions or inactions of the defendants," asserts the document filed by the London, Ont., law firm handling the case.

"The plaintiff has suffered a tremendous loss of enjoyment of life and ongoing pain and suffering. His ability to carry in a normal life has been extinguished or impaired."

The allegations made in the lawsuit have not yet been proven in court.

Bruce MacIntosh, a lawyer for the diocese of Antigonish, wouldn't comment on the case.

Marilyn Sweet, a spokeswoman with the archdiocese of Halifax, confirmed that they had been served but wouldn't comment on the matter since it is before the courts.

Aaron Lealess, a lawyer representing Latimer, said his client is opting out of the £15 million class-action settlement announced in August because he wants more information on what the church knew at the time of the alleged abuse and if it failed to act on that knowledge.

The settlement - which was certified by a Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge - is intended to compensate anyone who was allegedly and known to have been sexually assaulted by a priest of the Catholic Episcopal Corp. of Antigonish since Jan. 1, 1950.

"There's information we could find out about their knowledge of the priest, whether he was reported in previous diocese, whether they were aware of his problems and, if so, what did they do to protect the children," Lealess said Wednesday from London, adding that his client has decided to come forward publicly.

"The settlement allows compensation for the victims, but there's nothing in there which provides answers to the questions which my client has."

Latimer, 47, of Pleasant Hill in Cape Breton, has scheduled a news conference for Thursday to discuss the lawsuit.

Halifax lawyer John McKiggan negotiated the historic settlement with Ron Martin, whose brother made allegations of abuse by another priest in a suicide note in 2002 that led to charges of sex crimes against a priest from the diocese.

In the suit, Martin claimed that the diocese failed to protect children in its care when it became aware of the alleged abuse.

McKiggan said the class action covers alleged abuse by all priests, even if they're not named in the official pleadings, and that it will look at "who knew what and when."

"There is full disclosure to survivors in the class action," McKiggan said in an email.

He warned that multiple claims could impoverish the diocese.

"If the diocese is swamped with individual claims, the diocese could go bankrupt fighting the claims, leaving little or nothing for survivors," McKiggan added.

Lealess said his client was partly motivated to abandon the settlement because of revelations that Lahey was charged Sept. 25 with possessing and importing child pornography on his laptop after he was stopped at the Ottawa airport.

Those charges haven't been proven in court. Lahey is due back in court Nov. 4.

The statement of claim alleges the diocese failed to investigate MacDonald's "background, character and psychological state," and warn his supervisors and parishioners of MacDonald's "difficulties as a priest," but doesn't elaborate.

The suit also alleges that the diocese fostered a system of rules and church ideologies in which "deviant sexual practices were bound to develop among a percentage of the priests."

It alleges that the church knew MacDonald, who was ordained in 1940, had a propensity to "engage in such deviant behaviours" because of the amount of time the pastor spent with young males and his "unusual interest" in them, claiming that MacDonald took overnight trips with young boys and would sleep in the same bed.

It claims the archdiocese didn't have proper procedures in place to prevent and react to abuse by clergy.

Lealess said his firm had been contacted by other people who might opt out of the class action.

The lawsuit is seeking £2 million in damages, including £300,000 for non-pecuniary damages for pain and suffering; £1.25 million for past and future pecuniary damages; and £50,000 for emotional and mental distress.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.