After orphanage abuse lawsuit, Canadian dioceses could face new wave of litigation

Pillar Catholic

February 18, 2021

By JD Flynn

Analysis: Canada

A decision from Canada’s Supreme Court last month is likely to trigger a new round of lawsuits against Canadian Catholic dioceses. The court declined to hear an appeal against a lower court’s finding that the Archdiocese of St. John’s in Newfoundland had vicarious liability for a religious community which operated a notoriously abusive orphanage in the archdiocese.

That decision is expected to lead to more lawsuits against Canadian dioceses, over abuse committed by religious institutes within their territory. Those lawsuits could lead to a spate of diocesan bankruptcies.

The Mount Cashel orphanage story is one of the most egregious and horrific stories of sexual abuse in the history of Canada.

The orphanage opened in Newfoundland in 1898 and operated for nearly a century. It was operated by members of the Christian Brothers religious order. In the late 1980s and 1990s, it emerged that hundreds of orphanage residents had been sexually abused over decades at the orphanage.

In 1990, Mount Cashel closed.

In the decades that followed, the Christian Brothers and the Newfoundland government paid more than $27 million to victims of sexual abuse at the orphanage. The Christian Brothers in Canada eventually went bankrupt.

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