Priest lawsuit settled

By Tereza Verenca
September 16, 2020

Vernon brothers sexually abused by priest reach settlement with Diocese of Kamloops

An out-of-court settlement has been reached between the Diocese of Kamloops and two Vernon brothers who were sexually abused as teens by a Catholic priest.

The siblings launched separate lawsuits last year. In their notices of civil claim, they allege the now-deceased Father Herbert Bourne carried out the abuse at St. James parish in Vernon in the late 1970s. The court documents, which name Bourne and the Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Kamloops, a corporate sole as defendants, say the abuse happened at the church, in Bourne's vehicle and at the boys' family home.

"Bourne committed such tortious act on the plaintiff when he wrongfully and intentionally sexually, emotionally and mentally abused and traumatized the plaintiff," the notice of civil claim states.

The brothers endured feelings of shame, low self-esteem, an impaired ability to be intimate, PTSD, depression and anxiety as a result, court documents show.

Bill Dick, the brothers' lawyer, tells Castanet a settlement was reached a few weeks ago.

"It was a positive result. It didn’t require the boys to go through a protracted litigation, cross-examination, a re-victimization, which is the downside to litigation in these types of claims. Although you truly get to be empowered, by going through this litigation and confronting your accusers, the process itself can be quite harmful," he says.

Dick adds his clients are satisfied with the resolution, which also included an in-person apology from Kamloops Bishop Joseph Nguyen. 

"I was heartened by the approach the (diocese) took in this case as opposed to... (going) all the way through to a complete trial to get resolution," he says, pointing to another case that involved the Kamloops Roman Catholic Diocese. In that case, the plaintiff, Rosemary Anderson, was awarded $844,140 in damages after a lengthy court battle.

"There has been traditionally a relatively low compensation amount for people who suffered sexual abuse. I think that’s changing with a recognition of just how devastating these things can be," Dick says.

"Like anything else, money is a pale substitute for the loss that these people have suffered," he adds.

The brothers' parents were also part of the apology meeting.

"Parents aren't part of the lawsuit but they’re part of consequences of these actions because it’s a horrendous amount of guilt that parents harbour when they invite someone like a priest into their home and the priest ends up abusing their children unbeknownst to them. ... I thought it was really important to include all the family members as part of the settlement," Dick says.

According to the Interior lawyer, the brothers hope other victims come forward and seek the help they need.

Nguyen addressed the sexual abuse in a letter posted on the diocese's website on Sept. 4. He said the failure to act soon enough to prevent abuse "is a mistake of the past."

"If you become aware of any situation of abuse or misconduct please immediately contact law enforcement authorities. If the abuse involves a member of the clergy engaged in ministry in our diocese please make us aware," the bishop wrote. "We are continually looking at better ways to protect minors and vulnerable people and also for healing, reconciliation and transformation."

You can read the full letter below.


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