CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) [Toronto, Canada]
May 16, 2022
Mother and son lived in rectory and allege repeated sexual assault from 1976 to 1989
[Photo above: Rev. Fournier in 1974. A man alleges in a lawsuit that he was sexually assaulted by Fournier in a fishing camp as a child between 1976 and 1989. (Studio Laporte/Center for Documentation and Madawaskayan Studies)]
A woman and her son are suing the Edmundston Diocese of the Catholic Church and the estate of a local priest, alleging he repeatedly sexually assaulted them for more than 10 years.
The priest, Rev. Georges Fournier of Edmundston, died in 2021 at the age of 91.
The suit says the diocese was aware of the assaults against the woman, now in her 70s, and her son, now in his 50s, or at least should have been.
The lawsuit also names the Edmundston Diocese Foundation.
Mother assaulted twice a week
The statement of claim alleges Fournier invited the mother, who was 26 and separated from her husband, to live in the parsonage at Saint-Hilaire church. He said she could live and work there as a housekeeper along with her two sons.
The statement obtained by Radio-Canada says the woman was desperate, and Fournier’s invitation seemed like a “miracle” at the time.
The statement says she accepted the offer and lived at the rectory between 1976 and 1989.
During those years, the woman alleged, Fournier sexually assaulted her about twice a week, and sometimes more, in his bedroom.
She said she had a tubal ligation procedure done in 1977 to prevent pregnancy caused by the assault.
None of the allegations in the lawsuit have been proven in court.
Son assaulted at 5 years old
In the statement of claim, the son says he would hear Fournier coming to take his mother from her room in the evenings.
The son also says Fournier assaulted him regularly between 1976, when he was five years old, until 1987. He said the assaults took place in Fournier’s bedroom, the rectory living room, a car and a fishing camp on the Restigouche River.
The complainants said their situation was especially difficult because they were living with Fournier, and were afraid of being assaulted at any time.
They said Fournier had complete control over their lives. He allegedly prevented the mother from developing friendships and relationships with men, and the son from developing relationships with girls.
The plaintiffs say they were only able to come to terms with the abuse and seek help after Fournier’s funeral in October 2021.
They said the assaults caused psychological harm. The mother and son said they had suicidal thoughts and suffered from depression, sleep disturbances and post-traumatic stress disorder.
They’re seeking financial compensation from the diocese and Fournier’s estate, but the statement of claim did not include a dollar figure.
The lawyer for the Diocese of Edmundston has submitted a notice of intent to defend this case.
With files from Pascal Raiche-Nogue, Radio-Canada