MONTREAL – An Ottawa-based priest has been suspended after being named in a $2-million sex-abuse lawsuit filed on behalf of students who attended a Catholic boarding school in Quebec’s Eastern Townships.
The motion seeking permission for the class action to proceed was filed on behalf of those who were allegedly abused while attending College Servite, a school in Ayer’s Cliff that was previously run by members of the Servite Order.
The application still requires the authorization of a judge in Sherbrooke, Que.
The lead plaintiff in the case, an unnamed 57-year-old man identified in court documents as X, accuses Father Jacques Desgrandchamps of abusing him between 1973 and 1975.
Court documents allege Desgrandchamps, the man’s history teacher, had him sleep in his bedroom where he would sexually abuse him and ply him with alcohol.
“The victim, which is common in these types of cases, wants to remain anonymous,” his lawyer, Robert Kugler, said in an interview.
“It’s very difficult for him to speak about what happened and how it affected him and he has demonstrated tremendous courage by deciding to institute a class action.”
The plaintiff’s decision to come forward was triggered by a recent ruling in a different case that did not involve Desgrandchamps and after he discovered his alleged abuser was still working, Kugler said.
Spelling out the details of his own abuse will help other victims who need not come forward and identify themselves publicly for compensation, Kugler said.
The action covers any alleged abuse that occurred before or after events involving the plaintiff.
The alleged abuse took place in an area of the school reserved for religious members of the congregation, who allegedly turned a blind eye to the boy being in a restricted area.
It is alleged they failed to assist him when he spent evenings and nights in the accused’s bedroom, which contained just a single bed.
A dorm supervisor also failed to act despite it being clear the plaintiff was missing from his own bed, the lawyer said.
“Nobody ever asked a question, nobody ever intervened, nobody ever assisted him,” Kugler said.
He said when the case was filed, lawyers were convinced there were other victims. As stories have trickled out this week about the case, they’ve received several calls from other alleged victims.
Desgrandchamps told Radio-Canada this week he taught at the school and did have sex with some students, but insisted there was no violence.
Ottawa’s archdiocese has suspended Desgrandchamps and said in a statement that Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast is reviewing the situation in consultation with the Servite superior.
“The archdiocese of Ottawa is deeply saddened by the allegations concerning a Servite priest residing in the archdiocese,” wrote Deacon Gilles Ouellette, a diocese spokesman.
“Our diocese is committed to creating a safe environment in the church for minors and other vulnerable persons.”
Desgrandchamps recently worked at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Ottawa.