Province, archdiocese face class action lawsuit on behalf of Indigenous former students of St. Eustache school

CBC News
December 4, 2016

Two former students are suing the Archdicoese of Winnipeg, the Province of Manitoba and the order of nuns who ran St. Eustache School on behalf of all Indigenous and Metis children who attended the school between 1960 and 1983.

Two former students are launching a class action lawsuit over physical, sexual and emotional abuse they say they experienced at St. Eustache School in Saint Eustache, Man., throughout the 1960s at the hands of nuns who ran the school and a priest in the community.

The former students are suing the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions, the Archdiocese of Winnipeg and the Province of Manitoba on behalf of all Indigenous and Métis children who attended the school between 1960 and 1983, according to a statement of claim filed to the Court of Queen's Bench on Nov. 25.

According to the statement, children of Indigenous or Métis descent who resided in or around Saint Eustache, Man., were made to attend the school during the period, including the two plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs are a man and a woman who both attended the school for six years in the 1960s. The male plaintiff attended from age eight to 14, and the female plaintiff attended from age six to 12.

In the statement, the man describes being eight years old in 1962 when a nun slapped him across the face, badly cutting his lip. His parents complained to authorities but the nun continued to assault him with a strap on a regular basis while he was in Grades 2 and 3 at the school, he states.

The woman says her experience was similar. She states that when she was in Grades 1 and 2, she was hit repeatedly with a yardstick on her hand and fingers by the same nun, who also pulled her hair and verbally assaulted her multiple times.

While they were at school, both were encouraged by staff to attend the local church and meet a priest there, the statement reads.

The priest invited each child to his home individually and sexually assaulted them multiple times, the statement reads. The pair claim the priest regularly sexually assaulted the male plaintiff throughout a year, and did the same to the female plaintiff for a period of three years.

Panic attacks, nightmares, addiction

Ever since, both plaintiffs say they have battled anxiety, panic attacks, alcohol addiction, hypervigilance, sexual disfunction and nightmares. The female plaintiff says she has also faced depression and suicidal ideation.

They argue the archdiocese and the province knew about the abuse at the school and failed to take reasonable steps to stop it. During the period, the archdiocese was responsible for supervising the school and the province was responsible for supervising and inspecting all schools in the province, the statement says.

A spokeswoman for Manitoba Justice responded to a CBC request for comment on Thursday. She said the province has not yet been served on the matter.

"Once that occurs, we will review and determine next steps," she wrote in an email.

Rev. Richard Arsenault of the Archdiocese of Winnipeg said the archdiocese hasn't been served yet, either, and therefore was not able to provide comment.

A spokeswoman for Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions said she had no knowledge of the lawsuit in an email on Friday.

None of the claims have been proven in court. 

St. Eustache is just under 50 kilometres outside of Winnipeg.


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