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B.C. court greenlights Catholic school sexual abuse class action

The case involves two Metro Vancouver Catholic schools and allegations of abuse by Christian Brothers from Newfoundland and Labrador’s notorious Mount Cashel Orphanage.
"We urge any former students, teachers, or staff who have information about sexual or physical abuse at these schools to contact us," says lawyer Reidar Mogerman.

B.C.’s Supreme Court has certified a class-action lawsuit against two Catholic schools and the Vancouver archbishop for abuse by Christian Brothers transferred from Newfoundland and Labrador’s Mount Cashel Orphanage.

It was more than 30 years ago that Canadians were horrified to hear tales of physical and sexual abuse of boys by the Christian Brothers order operating Mount Cashel Orphanage.

The class-action suit, filed in March 2022, said the Christian Brothers transferred six abusive members from Mount Cashel Orphanage to Vancouver College and St. Thomas More Collegiate in Burnaby between 1976 and 1983.

The suit was initially filed in February 2021 with representative plaintiff Darren Liptrot. He said in the claim he attended Vancouver College from 1980 to 1985, for grades 8 to 12, and that Brother Edward English sexually abused him.

“This is a major step forward in the journey to seek answers and justice for all the students who suffered abuse at the hands of the Christian Brothers at these schools,” Liptrot said. “There is strength in numbers, and collectively, we can force the schools and the Vancouver Archdiocese to disclose what they knew and why they failed to protect us.”

Named as defendants in the notice of civil claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court Jan. 31 are Vancouver College Ltd., St. Thomas More Collegiate, Edward English, Joseph Burke, Douglas Kenny, Gerard Gabriel McHugh, the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of St. John’s, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Vancouver and the Catholic Independent Schools of Vancouver Archdiocese.

Justice Simon Coval said the case relates back to the notorious physical and sexual abuse of children at the Mount Cashel Orphanage in St. John’s.

“Those tragic events ultimately led to criminal convictions of many Christian Brothers who ran the orphanage,” Coval said.

Coval said that, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, before the events at Mount Cashel came to light, six Christian Brothers were transferred from the orphanage to the two Greater Vancouver schools.

“The claim alleges that senior Christian Brothers orchestrated the transfers, despite knowing what had occurred at Mount Cashel, and that the transferees and other Christian Brothers went on to abuse students at the schools,” Coval said.

In the 1990s, when the crimes at Mount Cashel were revealed and prosecuted, four of the six transferees were convicted, including English and Kenny, state court documents.

“The plaintiff’s evidence establishes common factual and legal issues regarding the institutional defendants’ alleged knowledge of what occurred at Mount Cashel, and their decisions, actions, and policies regarding the Christian Brothers at the schools,” Coval said.

The judge said a class proceeding is preferable to individual actions.

“It will enhance access to justice for the class members and provide the fairest and most efficient method of managing their claims,” he said.

The case will now continue on behalf of all students enrolled at Vancouver College between 1976 and 2013, and St. Thomas More Collegiate between 1976 and 1989.

“The certification of this case as a class action is a significant victory in the ongoing fight for accountability, which was courageously brought to the courts by Darren and now allows others to come forward,” lawyer Reidar Mogerman said.

“We urge any former students, teachers, or staff who have information about sexual or physical abuse at these schools to contact us," he said.