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Former students launch class action litigation for alleged abuse

Survivors of abuse often face years of difficulty in trying to cope with the mental aftermath, often long after the physical signs have healed. When the abuse was allegedly perpetrated by those charged with the education and spiritual well-being of the victims, it brings the question of responsibility to the fore. Two former students are planning class action litigation against those they claim are responsible for their pain, in a province just west of Ontario.

A man and woman who used to attend a school for Indigenous and Métis children in a small Manitoba community are claiming they and others suffered years of abuse at the hands of the nuns who ran the school and a local priest. Both of the plaintiffs were students at the school in the 1960s for six years. The man and the woman each described numerous incidences of physical and verbal abuse from the nuns at the school. They also claim to have been sexually assaulted by a priest they were encouraged to visit with by the school staff.

They believe that the province and the Archdiocese of Winnipeg knew what was happening at the school, but took no reasonable steps to prevent it. As a result of the alleged abuse, the pair claim to have suffered from anxiety, alcohol addiction, depression and other mental issues. They are planning to sue the Province of Manitoba, the archdiocese and the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions, on behalf of all students of the school between 1960 and 1983.

In a case where the alleged violation was believed to have occurred not just as an isolated incident, but rather as part of a systemic failure or overall negligence by an organization, it may be possible to sue an overseeing body or bodies, in addition or apart from individual perpetrators. This is an especially useful course of action when the accused individuals are no longer living. A class action litigation is a complicated matter and cannot be launched effectively without a great deal of work and assistance. Consulting with an experienced attorney familiar with class actions in Ontario might be the best way for anyone considering this course to begin.

Source: CBC News - Manitoba, "Province, archdiocese face class action lawsuit on behalf of Indigenous former students of St. Eustache school", Dec. 4, 2016

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