PRINCE GEORGE (CANADA)
Vancouver Sun [Vancouver, British Columbia]
August 17, 2021
By Gordon Hoekstra
Civil claim seeks damages for alleged psychological and sexual abuse between 1991 and ’94 by the brother, who is from Newfoundland.
A former student at O’Grady Catholic High School in Prince George has filed a civil suit alleging sexual abuse in the early 1990s by a teacher who was a Christian brother.
The student, now in his mid-40s and a medical technologist in Victoria, is named only as John Doe in the suit filed Aug. 16 in B.C. Supreme Court in Prince George.
The student’s alleged abuser is named in the court filing but Postmedia News is choosing not to publish his name as there has been no response in court to the allegations.
The ex-student has not pursued a criminal complaint with police against the former teacher, according to his lawyer, Sandra Kovacs.
The civil claim seeks damages for alleged psychological and sexual abuse between 1991 and ’94 by the brother, who is from Newfoundland where he obtained his teaching certification.
The student says in the civil claim that the teacher, a non-ordained member of the Congregation of Christian Brothers, told him he had been at Mount Cashel in Newfoundland and at St. Thomas More Collegiate in Burnaby before coming to O’Grady. Mount Cashel was an orphanage that was operated by Christian brothers that was closed in 1990 following a scandal regarding abuse of children.
O’Grady high school in Prince George closed in 2001 because of declining enrolment and financial concerns.
Also named in the civil suit are the Roman Catholic Diocese of Prince George, bishop emeritus Gerald Wiesner, the Catholic Independent Schools Diocese of Prince George, O’Grady Catholic High School, St. Thomas More Collegiate Ltd., the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Vancouver, the Catholic Independent Schools of Vancouver Archbishop and the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corp. of St. John’s.
There has been no response in court to the allegations by any of the defendants.
The student is described in the civil claim as excelling academically and being a “pious” youth who contemplated becoming a priest.
The former student alleges that the teacher engaged in a “continuum of grooming of the plaintiff” that included befriending him and gaining his trust and confidence. The grooming included travelling with the student and staying in hotel rooms and other joint accommodations, and “play touching” and tickling the student. The purpose of the grooming was to exploit the “vulnerable” plaintiff and his “obvious” need for the teacher’s validation and approval, says the complaint.
In and around the late spring or summer of 1993, when the student was in Grade 12, the teacher accompanied the student for a tour of Simon Fraser University, staying in a single-bed room at St. Thomas More Collegiate school in Burnaby, says the claim. The teacher invited the student to share the bed, where he allegedly touched the student’s penis, first through his clothing, and then under his clothing, according to the civil claim. The student moved to the floor, “tense and panicked,” and can remember crying, staring at a crucifix above the door and praying.
After Grade 12, in 1994, during a trip to Newfoundland, in a hotel in Montreal, the teacher “plied” the former student with alcohol, put pornographic movies on the TV and invited the student to participate in mutual masturbation, according to the claim. The plaintiff said no and the teacher masturbated by himself and exposed his genitals in front of the former student’s face while masturbating, according to the claim.
The Prince George diocese could not be reached Tuesday for comment.
In a written statement released Tuesday, the Vancouver archdiocese said there is no record of the brother having worked for the Archdiocese of Vancouver.
“We have deep regret for the harms any victims have experienced as a result of sexual abuse or assault,” said the Vancouver archdiocese’s statement.
The archdiocese said it could not comment further as the allegations are before the court — but encouraged anyone who has experienced sexual abuse by a Catholic cleric to call professional counsellors at an independent complaint line at 604-363-7338 or go directly to the RCMP.