The Archdiocese of St. John’s is responsible for abuses at Mount Cashel in the 1950s, after Canada’s highest court refused to hear a final appeal from the Catholic Church.
The Supreme Court of Canada released its ruling on Thursday, simply saying it denies the Archdiocese of St. John’s request.
This decision ends a laborious process for the victims who were abused at the orphanage as children. The case has been going through the courts for 21 years.
The case included four victims who served as test cases for around 60 men in total. The church is now required to pay unpaid bills left by the Christian Brothers of Ireland when the organization went bankrupt after settling child abuse lawsuits in 2012.
The church had always denied being responsible for Mount Cashel, where countless numbers of children were abused from the 1950s to the 1970s, the horrors covered up by the government and law enforcement. All of this came to light in 1989 with the Hughes Inquiry, which blew the lid off the scandal and widespread trauma caused by the Christian brethren.
The church based its case on two key facts: it was not involved in the day-to-day operations of the orphanage, and the Christian Brothers was a secular organization, meaning its members were not ordained priests.
The Archdiocese of St. John’s declined to comment on Thursday, saying it needed time to speak to its legal team, but released a brief statement from Archbishop Peter Hundt.
“The Archdiocese of St. John’s has immense sympathy for those who have suffered abuse at the Mount Cashel Orphanage and we ask all to join us in praying for the healing of those suffering from the abuse,” reads -on in the press release.
The Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador agreed with the Church in 2018, when Justice Alphonsus Faour ruled that the Archdiocese of St. John’s was not responsible. A subsequent appeal by the victims overturned this decision by the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal in July 2020.
The Archdiocese of St. John’s exercised its final legal option in the weeks following this ruling and asked the Supreme Court of Canada to hear the case and render a final decision. By rejecting this request, the case is now closed.
The victims received compensation from the Christian Brothers during the bankruptcy proceedings. The total amount owed to them is still being finalized, but Faour has assessed damages at $ 2.61 million for the four victims in the test case.
The decision could have wider ramifications for the church, as more victims could now come forward and seek redress. It could also be used as a precedent-setting decision in other cases – whether related to the church or not – where an institution is accused of being responsible for the actions of the people who work for it.
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