Ottawa Diocese Sues Insurers to Cover Clergy Sex Abuse Costs
By Andrew Duffy
January 22, 2020
The Archdiocese of Ottawa has launched lawsuits against three insurance companies in an effort to compel them to cover the costs of 12 clergy sexual abuse cases.
The civil suits, filed mostly in the past three years, involve allegations of sexual abuse that date back as far as 1971. Among the priests named in those suits are Revs. Jacques Faucher, Kenneth Keeler and Dale Crampton, the most notorious criminal in Ottawa’s clergy sex abuse scandal, who is credibly accused of abusing at least 15 children, many of them altar boys.
Two of the cases cited by the archdiocese in its insurance lawsuits were settled out of court so the alleged sexual abusers remain unknown.
The archdiocese has never released a list of priests credibly accused of sexual assault.
The Jesuits of Canada, a Catholic religious order, announced last month that it will release the names of all of its priests who have been credibly accused of sexually abusing minors. Dozens of Catholic dioceses in the U.S. have already released similar lists.
Also last month, the Catholic Diocese of London confirmed that 40 of its priests have been credibly accused of sexual assault after a victim’s group published its own list.
In Ottawa, this newspaper’s analysis of court records and media files reveals that more than 50 people have made allegations of sexual abuse against 11 priests in the archdiocese, which has spent more than $1 million settling sexual abuse claims.
Robert Du Broy, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said Tuesday that it has no current plan to make public a list of priests who have been credibly accused.
“Nonetheless,” he said, “the archdiocese is taking significant measures to safeguard the vulnerable, to support survivors in the healing process, and to promptly address allegations by removing suspected clergy from ministry and having them psychologically assessed.”
The archdiocese, he added, cooperates fully with police and court officials on every case of alleged sexual abuse.
In its new statement of claim, the archdiocese contends that the Aviva Insurance Company of Canada, under the terms of two decades-old policies, has an obligation to cover any costs associated with seven historic sex abuse lawsuits.
Aviva denied those insurance claims, but the archdiocese is now asking a court to find that Aviva breached its contractual duties and must cover the costs to both defend and settle the abuse claims.
It’s seeking a similar order against two other insurers: Chubb Insurance Company of Canada and Desjardins General Insurance. Statements of defence have yet to be filed.
This is the second time that the Ottawa archdiocese has sued its insurance companies in an effort to recoup the cost of sexual abuse settlements.
About five years ago, the archdiocese sued La Mutuelle and the Travelers Insurance Company of Canada in an effort to secure liability coverage for another 12 historic sex abuse claims. The archdiocese said then it “has suffered and is still suffering significant losses” due to costs associated with the court cases.
La Mutuelle ultimately struck a deal to cover the cost of abuse cases that occurred in 1976 or later.
In Ontario, there’s no limitation period on sexual abuse lawsuits, which means survivors can seek compensation for abuse that happened decades ago.
It has forced Catholic officials across the country to scour old church files to come up with dusty liability insurance documents. Many insurers have resisted the resulting claims, arguing that the criminal acts were intentional and therefore excluded from coverage, or disqualified from coverage because they were not disclosed at the time they occurred.
The courts, however, have largely sided with the Catholic church on issues of insurance coverage.
In an important development last year, the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear an insurance company’s appeal of a New Brunswick high court ruling that ordered it to pay $3.3 million towards a sexual abuse settlement negotiated by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bathurst.