Residential school survivor leads class-action lawsuit against Catholic Church, priest

CTV News [Toronto, Ontario, CA]

April 23, 2024

By Teri Fikowski

A residential school survivor is leading a class-action lawsuit against the Catholic Church and one of its priests.

It stems from comments allegedly made by the priest during a sermon describing evidence of unmarked graves as “lies” and “manipulation.”

Monday, a judge ruled the proposed class-action lawsuit can go forward despite efforts from lawyers representing the archdiocese of Edmonton and a religious order to have it struck down.

That decision was met with lots of tears, smiles and hugs from elder Sphenia Jones, who is leading the case.


About a dozen of Jones’ family and supporters rallied Monday in support of residential school survivors and the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges priest Marcin Mironiuk said Indigenous children died of natural causes and questioned the validity of unmarked graves during a mass in 2021.

It sparked backlash and protests at the time.

The archdiocese did not comment on Monday but apologized at the time and put the priest on indefinite administrative leave.

However, a church website in Brampton, Ont., says the priest works there now.

Lawyers behind the class action say denialism against residential schools is a growing phenomenon that further traumatizes survivors.

Jones was forced to attend the former Edmonton residential school when she was 11 and says images of what she witnessed still haunt her at 80.

Lawyers representing the church argued the remarks were made in Polish and misinterpreted, and don’t meet the criteria of a class-action lawsuit — such as referring to Jones directly.

The judge disagreed and said it can go forward and also awarded Jones compensation for what she spent to fight the application to have it struck down.