Victims of sexual abuse and a Nova Scotian Roman Catholic Diocese announced they’ve reached a $13-million settlement Friday.
The settlement is designed to compensate the victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests while allowing the Roman Catholic Diocese of Antigonish to avoid bankruptcy.
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Ronald Martin, who said his abuse started at the age of 13, started the class action lawsuit. In 2002, Martin’s brother took his own life and in a suicide note revealed he too had been sexually assaulted as a child.
“When I found out about that suicide note and what had happened, I made a promise to him that his death would not be in vain,” Martin said.
“That’s been a promise that was very, very difficult to keep. Many times in the last seven years it would have been very easy to walk away. But now, today, I feel like I fulfilled that promise.”
Martin and his lawyer, John McKiggan, are encouraging others who suffered abuse to contact them and make a claim. So far they’ve already heard from two dozen people. Four former priests in the diocese were convicted of assault, though the real number is alleged to be higher.
McKiggan praised the Antigonish diocese Friday for working with victims.
“There have been Catholic Church priest abuse scandals we’re all aware of. In my experience the strategy that the church has followed in the vast majority of these claims is to fight the survivors vigorously,” McKiggan said.
“This is an extraordinary resolution of claims against the church that is unprecedented in Canada and, I think, in North America.”
On behalf of the diocese, Bishop Raymond Lahey formally apologized to victims, saying no amount of money could undo the damage that was done.
“I want to express to you in a personal way my most sincere regrets for the abuse that you and other members of your family have suffered."