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Ontario woman wins bid to sue Roman Catholic diocese, again, over sexual abuse

The faithful walk through the streets of old Montreal during the stations of the cross on Good Friday in Montreal, Friday, March 29, 2013.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

An Ontario woman has won her bid to sue the Roman Catholic Church for a second time over the sexual abuse she suffered as a child at the hands of a priest.

Irene Deschenes initially filed a lawsuit in 1996 alleging she was sexually abused by Father Charles Sylvestre in the early 1970s, and that the London diocese failed to prevent it.

She settled out of court in 2000 after the diocese maintained it didn’t know of any concerns regarding Sylvestre or his behaviour until the late 1980s — long after what happened to Deschenes.

Court documents show that in 2006, Sylvestre pleaded guilty to having sexually assaulted 47 girls under the age of 18, including Deschenes.

It also came to light that the diocese had received police statements in 1962 alleging the priest had assaulted three girls, prompting Deschenes to seek to scrap her settlement and file a new suit.

A motion judge ruled to allow the new legal action but the diocese appealed — a challenge that was unanimously dismissed by the province’s top court this week.

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