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$104 million for victims of abuse

4 million for victims of abuse
4 million for victims of abuse

The Archdiocese of St. John’s must pay more than $104 million to 292 survivors of abuse at the Mount Cashel Orphanage in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s or at the hands of archdiocesan clergy.

Individual settlements for successful claims range from $55,000 to $850,000. The average net claim award value is approximately $356,000 per claimant.

Globe Resolutions Inc., the mediation firm appointed as claims officer, has rejected 65 applications. However, the rejected claimants have 45 days to file an appeal after receiving their official Notice of Determination. Meanwhile, 10 cases are still pending a decision.

Attorney Geoff Budden, whose firm represented 219 of the 367 plaintiffs, has been working for nearly a quarter century toward July 5, the date the settlements were published by court-appointed regulator Ernst & Young Inc. He told The Catholic Register that the total of $104 million was “where I would expect almost 300 men with this range of abuse to come out in terms of damages.” As for individual assessments, the civil litigator acknowledged that some plaintiffs will be “satisfied” and others “disappointed.”

Budden characterized the post-settlement calls as a “major and somewhat triggering event” for abuse survivors. He and his staff strive to be as thorough as possible in explaining the process. They also take the time to answer all questions and listen empathetically to each client’s thoughts and concerns.

The next court hearing in the bankruptcy and insolvency proceedings for the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of St. John’s (RCECSJ) is scheduled for August 28. Details of pending and contested claims are expected to be provided. Budden expects a “distribution process” to emerge from that hearing, so that survivors could receive their first payouts in early September.

In response to the Newfoundland Court of Appeal ruling in July 2020 that the archdiocese was “vicariously liable” for atrocities committed by the Christian Brothers of Ireland at Mount Cashel and the Supreme Court of Canada dismissing an appeal in January 2021, RCECSJ filed for bankruptcy and began liquidating assets.

Archbishop Peter Hundt confirmed in an email that approximately $43 million has been raised for survivors through the sale of more than 110 properties and the transfer of ownership, rights and interests in 38 schools to the province and the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District.

In response to the assessments, Hundt wrote, “The Archdiocese respects the work of the claims officer in preparing the notices of determination and will continue to cooperate with the court and the claimants’ legal counsel in determining a fair and equitable settlement of these claims.”

Hundt added that the archdiocese “will continue to liquidate the RCECSJ properties for the benefit of the claimants.”

The April 12 court monitor’s report, filed by Ernst & Young, the latest to shed light on the liquidation process, found that 17 unsold archdiocesan properties — six still in use and 11 inactive — have a combined value of more than $3.3 million. So far, these lands or structures have not generated substantial market interest.

Finding a way to sell those assets would have brought RCECSJ close to the original $50 million estimate it needed in the event that about 100 plaintiffs emerged. Budden and the other attorneys representing plaintiffs are waiting to see whether two insurance policies can fetch a substantial amount. However, the two companies — Intact Insurance (which acquired Guardian Insurance) and Northbridge Insurance — dispute that they should pay.

Budden said the Newfoundland and Labrador government must take responsibility for bringing this odyssey to an end.

“We also have to remember that most of the survivors of this abuse were, to one degree or another, in the care of the province of Newfoundland when they were abused,” Budden said. “They were either at Mount Cashel, they were in schools. Either way, they were in the care of the state, directly or indirectly. We’ll be looking to the government of Newfoundland and Labrador to (realize) that they have a role in resolving this as well.”