Bathhurst, N.B. -- Lawyers representing sexual-abuse victims of former New Brunswick priest Levi Noel have filed 11 lawsuits alleging members of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bathurst covered up his crimes.
A statement of claim filed Friday in the province's Court of Queen's Bench alleges clergy failed to properly respond to Noel's conduct and promoted "a culture of secrecy with respect to the sexual misconduct of clergy which was intended to benefit the diocese rather than stop the misconduct or assist the victims."
In January 2010, Noel was sentenced to eight years in prison after pleading guilty to 22 charges of sexual assault against 18 boys between 1958 and 1980.
Lawyer Robert Talach said clergy had a responsibility to act sooner.
"He would have faced justice long before 2010," Talach told a news conference in this city of 12,000.
"His list of victims would have been much shorter and the overall damage he did to this community and this church much less."
Talach's London, Ont.-based Ledroit Beckett law firm has now filed 20 lawsuits against Noel and the diocese, despite an ongoing settlement process.
"Twenty victims have refused the pieces of silver offered to them through the conciliation process. Victims who want truth, prevention and accountability before compensation," Talach said.
"Their silence is not for sale."
Lawyers for Noel and the diocese have not filed statements of defence in any of the cases. Talach said they have until mid-September to respond in court to the most recent statements of claim.
The allegations have not been proven in court.
Rev. Wesley Wade, who speaks for the diocese, would not comment Friday on the new lawsuits because they are before the courts.
But former Supreme Court judge Michel Bastarache was hired by the diocese in 2010 to meet with Noel's victims and make recommendations for compensation.
Wade said the process is underway.
"We thought it was respecting both the victims and the Diocese of Bathurst, but it seems to me, with that legal action, that some of the victims have chosen another way -- a legal way," Wade said.