Man told to 'shut up' after alleging sexual abuse by priest at group home: lawsuit

By Cameron Maclean
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
January 12, 2018

Father Omer Desjardins died in December on the same day he was set to go on trial on charges for alleged offences dating back to the late 1980s. A civil suit filed after his death alleges that Desjardins sexually abused a now 44-year-old man at a Winnipeg group home.

A Manitoba man alleges a now deceased priest sexually abused him at a Winnipeg group home — and that a supervisor at the home ignored the abuse when he tried to report it.

The allegations are part of a lawsuit filed last month by the man, who was a ward of Credo Home. That's the same Winnipeg group home where Catholic priest and convicted pedophile Omer Desjardins worked.

Desjardins died of a heart attack at the age of 85 on Dec. 4, 2017 just as he was about to go to trial on new charges for alleged offences dating back to the late 1980s.

At that time, Desjardins worked as a caretaker at Credo Home, which was run by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a Roman Catholic religious community to which Desjardins belonged.

Battery, sexual assault alleged

Before Desjardins died, the alleged victim had begun preparing a statement of claim for abuse he says he suffered during his time at the home, between May 1988 and Dec. 3, 1991.

The man, now 44, was placed in Credo Home when he was 14, after becoming a ward of Child and Family Services, which had an agreement with the Oblates to run the home.

"There was an attempt to have a 'home-like setting,' I believe was the goal for the care agency at the time," said the man's lawyer, Victor Bargen.

In his statement of claim, the man alleges "he was subjected to assault and battery, sexual battery, sexual assault and the intentional infliction of mental suffering" at the hands of Desjardins, who allegedly repeatedly fondled him, masturbated in front of him, and showered with him and other boys.

'We wanted to be sure that everybody who was accountable, including individuals and the organizations, were held accountable.' - Lawyer Victor Bargen

Bargen said Desjardins's death had no impact on the filing of the statement of claim, which is dated Dec. 22.

The statement also names Desjardins's estate, the director of Child and Family Services, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate of Manitoba, the Oblate Sisters of St. Boniface, the Archdiocese of St. Boniface, and a now retired reverend, who was a supervisor at Credo Home.

"We wanted to be sure that everybody who was accountable, including individuals and the organizations, were held accountable," Bargen said.

The statement of claim says while he was at the home, the man reported some of Desjardins' alleged abuse to the supervisor named in the suit.

"In direct response to the Plaintiff's complaint regarding the sexual misconduct, [the supervisor] advised the Plaintiff to 'shut up,'" the statement says.

CBC repeatedly reached out the supervisor for comment on this story, but did not receive a response.

Among the alleged offences, the statement mentions a camping trip to West Hawk Lake in June 1988.

"While camping, the Plaintiff recalls sleeping on the floor while Mr. Desjardins masturbated in his bed," the statement says.

The statement also says Desjardins would shower with the plaintiff and other boys during outings to athletic facilities, repeatedly caressed the plaintiff's leg, and alleges that on one occasion around May 1990, Desjardins grabbed the plaintiff's testicles over his underwear.

Other children at Credo Home reported sexual misconduct to staff, the statement says.

None of the allegations have been proven in court, and no statements of defence have been filed yet.

Sexually assaulted 10-year-old

In 2015, Desjardins pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl in Marcelin, Sask., in 1978.

In January 2017, Desjardins was charged with sexual assault, sexual exploitation and gross indecency for allegations of abuse against a teenage boy at Credo Home between Oct. 1, 1988 and July 31, 1989.

The new statement of claim argues that the province, the archdiocese, and the Oblates either knew or ought to have known about the abuse in Credo Home, but did nothing about it.

​Bargen said it's not yet clear who might be required to pay damages on behalf of Desjardins' estate in the event that a court rules in his client's favour. The statement also doesn't specify how much the man is seeking, saying that will be determined in court.

'[The alleged victim] had a really difficult time putting this event on the back burner and being able to carry on with his life.… It's affected virtually every part of his adult life.' - Victor Bargen

The man says he continues to suffer from physical and emotional harm, including feelings of shame and anger, addiction to drugs and alcohol, and difficulty forming relationships and holding onto employment.

"Some people have a more difficult time with a traumatic event and our client had a really difficult time putting this event on the back burner and being able to carry on with his life," Bargen said. "It's affected virtually every part of his adult life."

Bargen said his client decided to file a civil suit, rather than seeking criminal charges, in part because of the possibility of seeking financial compensation.

A statement from the Department of Family Services said the province couldn't comment on the case because it is before the courts, and The Child and Family Services Act prevents it from providing information on any case that may have involved CFS.

Spokespeople for the Archdiocese of St. Boniface and the Oblates of Mary Immaculate said they couldn't comment on the case, because they had not yet received a copy of the statement of claim.

A spokesperson for the Oblate Sisters of St. Boniface said their lawyers were reviewing the statement of claim, but that they had no involvement with Credo Home.



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