2nd lawsuit in 2 months alleges sexual abuse by Archdiocese of St. Boniface priest

CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) [Toronto, Canada]

July 7, 2023


Man claims he was abused over 10-year period by Rene Touchette, priest also named in May lawsuit

WARNING: The following story contains distressing details about sexual abuse of a child.

A man who says a Catholic priest in southern Manitoba sexually abused him over a 10-year period when he was a child is suing the Archdiocese of St. Boniface, becoming the second person to take the religious organization to court over abuse allegations in recent months.

The man, now 59, claims that the priest, Rene Touchette, sexually assaulted him multiple times while he was a member of the Notre-Dame-de-la-Nativité parish in Somerset, the lawsuit says. The abuse began in 1972, when the plaintiff was eight years old, and continued until 1982, the suit alleges.

Touchette, who died in 2012 at the age of 71, is one of two priests named in a separate lawsuit filed in May of this year, which also alleges sexual abuse.

Touchette was criminally charged in 1992 for sexually abusing the plaintiff in the latest lawsuit, and other victims in Somerset, the statement of claim says. He was convicted the following year.

The 59-year-old man is now suing the archdiocese, its corporate branch and its archbishop for general, special, punitive and aggravated damages, according to a statement of claim filed with Manitoba Court of King’s Bench on June 29.

The man is not being identified by CBC News because he is an alleged victim of sexual abuse.

Statements of defence have not yet been filed and none of the accusations have been proven in court.

Told by archbishop to ‘pray about the abuse’: lawsuit

The plaintiff, who lived next to the rectory where Touchette lived in Somerset, about 120 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg, claims that during a period that began when he was around eight years old, the priest would ask him for help at the church and in his home every weekend.

When the plaintiff went to school in Winnipeg, Touchette would travel there, and took him to hotels in the city, the man’s lawsuit alleges.

During these encounters, Touchette exposed himself, forcing the plaintiff to touch him sexually, violently molested him and sodomized him, the suit alleges.

The archdiocese was aware or should have known that Touchette was a pedophile because other victims made accusations of sexual assault against the priest, who was “transferred from one church to another,” the lawsuit claims.

It also says the plaintiff complained to then archbishop of St. Boniface Antoine Hacault — who died in 2000 — about the alleged abuse.

“The archbishop failed and refused to intervene to contact the police or to remove Touchette from his duties as a priest,” the lawsuit says.

“Instead, the archbishop told the plaintiff to pray about the abuse.”

A Thursday news release from the Archdiocese of St. Boniface said the organization was aware of the statement of claim regarding “alleged odious actions” by Touchette, but said it could not comment on matters currently before the court.

The archdiocese “stands in solidarity with all victims of sexual abuse,” the news release said.

May lawsuit alleged abused in St. Jean Baptiste

The archdiocese is also named as a defendant in the May lawsuit that accused Touchette and another former priest, Léo Couture, of abuse.

The plaintiff in that suit, a 44-year-old Winnipeg man, alleges the priests sexually assaulted him in the southern Manitoba community of St. Jean Baptiste in 1990 and 1991, according to a statement of claim.

Touchette was removed from his roles at a St. Jean Baptiste church and elementary school in 1990, that suit says.

The 59-year-old plaintiff in the June lawsuit is seeking general damages for pain and suffering, saying he has experienced emotional distresses including anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress and humiliation due to the alleged abuse.

He’s seeking other damages for the loss of past and future income, the costs of future treatment-related expenses and legal fees.

Support is available for anyone who has been sexually assaulted. You can access crisis lines and local support services through this Government of Canada website or the Ending Violence Association of Canada database. ​​If you’re in immediate danger or fear for your safety or that of others around you, please call 911.