Class Action Lawsuit Approved in Historic Abuse Case Against Two Major Vancouver Catholic Schools

Plaintiffs’ lawyer says more charges have been filed since ruling

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The British Columbia Supreme Court has approved a class action lawsuit against two Catholic universities by former students who say they were abused by Christian Brothers who had been brought there from a Newfoundland orphanage, where rampant sexual and physical abuse occurred.

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According to a ruling issued by Judge Simon Coval, the class action has been allowed because it is the best way to handle multiple cases. Four former and current Christian Brothers (Edward English, Joseph Burke, Douglas Kenney and Gerard Gabriel McHugh) and three Catholic authorities are named in the action.

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Multiple students have reported abuse by Christian Brothers who transferred to Vancouver College and St. Thomas More Collegiate between 1976 and 1983, after working at the Mount Cashel Orphanage in Newfoundland in the early to mid-1970s.

“The complaint alleges that the older Christian Brothers orchestrated the transfers, despite knowing what had occurred at Mount Cashel, and that the transferees and other Christian Brothers continued to abuse students at (Vancouver College and St. Thomas More in Burnaby) Coval said. .

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“The arrival of the transferees at the schools, in circumstances where the defendants allegedly knew, or should have known, that they had abused children at Mount Cashel, is a basis capable of supporting an award of punitive damages.”

Four of the six Christian brothers who were transferred to Metro Vancouver from Mount Cashel were later convicted of crimes at the orphanage (including English).

English was a supervisor at Mount Cashel in the early 1970s and taught at Saint Thomas More from 1976 to 1981 and at Vancouver College from 1981 to 1987. In 1991 he was convicted of 13 counts of assault, gross indecency, and assault with bodily harm. against orphans. Boys on Mount Cashel.

Of the other three named in the action; Burke was a Christian brother who worked at the orphanage between 1974 and 1981 and then transferred to Saint Thomas More, where he resigned as a Christian brother and moved to Vancouver College as a lay teacher. Burke was charged in the Mount Cashel case in the late 1980s, but those charges were dropped and he remained at Vancouver College until 2013, when he left after admitting to professional misconduct over his disciplinary methods.

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Kenney was a supervisor at Mount Cashel from 1971 to 1976 and transferred to Vancouver College to work as a teacher and dormitory supervisor from 1976 to 1979. He was later convicted of abuse at Mount Cashel, where the Christian Brothers committed heinous acts of physical, sexual, and sexual violence. . and emotional abuse of orphaned children between 1962 and the late 1980s.

The Mount Cashel Orphanage is shown in a 1989 photo.
The Mount Cashel Orphanage is shown in a 1989 photo. PHOTO BY ANDREW VAUGHAN /THE CANADIAN PRESS

McHugh, who is still a Christian brother, was provincial superior of Canada from 1972 to 1978 and director of St. Thomas More and Vancouver College during those times. It is alleged that he knew of an agreement between the Newfoundland government, the police and the orphanage to transfer six Christian brothers out of the province in exchange for a limited investigation of the allegations made by the orphans after they were taken to hospital for physical injuries. .

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The deal was discovered in the late 1980s, following a call-in on a radio show, and led to a Royal Commission and criminal charges against Christian Brothers working at Mount Cashel, leading to a series of convictions.

All four men charged in this case are alive.

Alumni have made a number of allegations.

A Vancouver College student from 1980 to 1985 claims to have been sexually abused by English over the course of two years, while another claims that between 1976 and 1977 they were assaulted with a belt and a piece of wood by Christian Brothers and also were He asked them to pose for photos. shirtless. Another Vancouver College student said Burke sexually assaulted him between 1985 and 1987. Similar allegations are made at St. Thomas More.

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Vancouver College first learned of the abuse allegations in February 2021, when it claimed it was taking it very seriously.

On March 8, 2023, the college said it was aware that the class action certification process had been approved.

The school said it wanted the complaints to be addressed on a case-by-case basis, as that would have allowed them to “manage them in a more individualized, efficient and timely manner.”

“Crimes of abuse are tragic and horrific and have a lifelong impact on victims. Vancouver College expresses its deep concern and sympathy for anyone who has been affected in any way by any abuse.”

St. Thomas More has not issued a statement.

Attorney for the plaintiffs, Joe Fioranti, said he has 65 alleged incidents of physical or sexual abuse at the two schools between 1976 and 2013, and that he expected the number to rise now that the class action lawsuit has been approved.

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“I have received a continuous stream of calls and emails from alumni of both schools (since the ruling),” Fioranti said.

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