Supreme Court Ponders Church Abuse Case

By Dominique La Haye
Toronto Sun
October 13, 2010

OTTAWA Canada's highest court is deciding whether it's too late for a grown woman to seek compensation from the Catholic Church for sexual abuse she suffered 30 years ago.

The Supreme Court of Canada is deliberating the case of Shirley Christensen, a 37-year-old mother from Quebec City.

She says she has the right to $250,000 in compensation for sex acts forced upon her when she was between six and eight years old.

Two lower courts had upheld a provision in Quebec's civil code that sets a three-year statute of limitations on civil lawsuits.

The priest in question, Paul-Henri Lachance, 79, was convicted and jailed last year for the abuse, which took place between 1979 and 1981.

Christensen met reporters at the Supreme Court where lawyers for both sides completed arguments on Wednesday. She said the lengthy ordeal is taking its toll.

"I'm very tired," she said. "It's dreadful to live through. Not only am I talking about the assaults again, but they're trying to minimize the things that happened to me."

Christensen's court case dates back to 2007, when she sued the Archdiocese of Quebec City as well as the Lachance. A Superior Court judge rejected her case, as did the Quebec Court of Appeal.

Her lawyer, Alain Arsenault, said Quebec is the only province that imposes a statute of limitations on civil lawsuits.

Christensen received support from sex-assault victims' rights groups who came to Ottawa Wednesday to stage a rally.

Jacques LeMay, lawyer for the archdiocese, defended the lower-court decisions, saying many potential witnesses have died in the last 30 years and moving such a case forward would be difficult.

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