Catholic Diocese issues statement over sex abuse battle

Blackburn News

August 19, 2020

By Paul Pedro

A woman sexually abused by a priest in Chatham decades ago can’t believe the Diocese of London is asking the Supreme Court of Canada to overturn a lower court ruling in her favour.

Irene Deschenes was sexually abused by Father Charles Sylvestre between 1971 and 1973 at St. Ursula School in Chatham. She was just 10-years-old when the abuse started. She filed a lawsuit against the Diocese in 1996 and, in 2000, reached a settlement after the Diocese said it was unaware of concerns about Sylvestre until the 1980s. However, it was later learned that the Diocese was made aware of accusations against Sylvestre in 1962. Deschenes then went to court to have the settlement thrown out and a new lawsuit filed.

In May, the Ontario Court of Appeal decided to uphold a 2018 court ruling to throw out the earlier settlement. In his 2018 decision, Justice David Aston acknowledged that Deschenes “would not have settled as she did in the fall of 2000 if they had known about the 1962 police reports.”

The Diocese is now asking the Supreme Court of Canada to take up the case.

“I’m very disappointed that, once again, the Diocese of London continues to bully victims into submission,” said Irene Deschenes. “Being abused as a little girl by a Roman Catholic priest was harmful enough. That the Diocese continues to use all its vast resources to continue to legally bully me is very painful. I recognize that they have a right to legally defend themselves, but is it the right thing to do?”

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