West K News [West Kelowna, BC, Canada]
July 5, 2021
By Paul Henderson
Sexual abuse alleged to have occurred at Bible camp on Gambier Island
A Chilliwack man who says he was sexually assaulted at a Bible camp in the late 1970s is suing the Roman Catholic archbishop and the archdiocese of Vancouver who operated the camp.
Not named in the lawsuit is the alleged perpetrator, referred to as John Doe, who was a counsellor and/or clergy member at the camp that was located on Gambier Island in Howe Sound.
Vernon Mulvahill’s notice of civil claim was filed in BC Supreme Court in Vancouver last month.
It was 1978 or 1979 when Mulvahill said he was sent by his parents to Camp Latona on Gambier Island in Howe Sound. He is now 49.
“During the week of camp activities, John D. sexually assaulted the plaintiff,” according to the civil claim.
The claim outlines specific demeaning and sexually explicit acts John Doe allegedly committed on the then seven- or eight-year-old.
Mulvahill alleges that John Doe not only sexually assaulted him but he involved other children in the sexual activity.
Then, he made sure Vernahill never told anyone.
“The plaintiff alleges that in order to facilitate abuses, John D. engaged in a pattern of behaviour which was intended to make the plaintiff confused and threatened as to believe that obeying John D. was the only option.”
Mulvahill said John Doe used his position as a counsellor and/or clergy member in his capacity as a representative of the church, to develop a close relationship with the boy while he was vulnerable and in need of guidance.
Vernahill says the reason the abuse was allowed to happen was because of the position of trust and authority handed to John Doe by the defendants, the archbishop and the archdiocese.
Among the lasting psychological effects of the alleged abuse, Vernahill says he has suffered damages and losses for: post-traumatic stress disorder; mental anguish; depression; anxiety; addiction; suicidal thoughts; mistrust of men; and shame, guilt, low self-esteem, and feelings of worthlessness.
He is seeking general and special damages against the defendants.
Camp Latona on Gambier Island opened its doors in 1959 when it was purchased by the Archdiocese of Vancouver, according to information on the camp’s Facebook page.
“Thousands of children from all walks of life have passed through this camp; with the experience of Camp Latona offering something that each child would remember for a lifetime,” it says.
The camp was sold in 1999 to an American Christian organization and in 2007 sold again and is now in private hands, still run as a camp.
In 2019, the Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver issued a report after an internal investigation that named nine clergymen with connections to the Lower Mainland who had been convicted or sued for sexual abuse dating back decades.
“Although nothing can undo the wrong that was done to you, I nonetheless wish to offer each of you my heartfelt apology for the trauma, the violation in body and soul, and the sense of betrayal and abandonment by the Church that you feel,” Archbishop J. Michael Miller said in a 2019 statement.
The church has created a line to report abuse by clergy members in the Archdiocese of Vancouver. Victims can call 604-363-7338 or 1-800-968-3146.
“We encourage any victims of clergy abuse to come forward to continue on the path to healing and justice.”