Archive for August, 2007

Indian Residential Schools Settlement Finalized!

The National Class action settlement to compensate up to 80,000 former residents of Canada’s Indian Residential Schools passed it’s final hurdle today.

The deadline for survivors to “opt out” of the settlement has passed and the deal is now final.

Our client, Nora Bernard was intrumental in achieving the deal, the largest class action settlement in Canada. You can read more about Nora Bernard, and the details of the settlement here and here.

I am proud to have represented Nora Bernard and the hundreds of other survivors of the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School and to have played a part in negotiating the largest abuse claims settlement in history.

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Jehovah’s Witness Sexual Abuse follow up

Thanks to all those that have posted comments about this (and those that have emailed me directly).

I received some interesting documents from former J.W. members that I will be posting about shortly.

I would be interested in hearing more from  J.W. members about this issue. You can email me directly by clicking on the “Contact John McKiggan” link at the top of this page or through my firm website.

History of Canada’s Indian Residential School Claims

For some background on the history behind the Indian Residential School claims, you can look here.

For some background on the claims that our firm has been handling for Survivors of the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School, check here.

Historic Abuse Claims Settlement Set to Pass Final Hurdle

The Globe and Mail has reported  that the largest abuse claims settlement in history is likely to pass it’s final hurdle today. Upwards of 80,000 former students of Church run Indian Residential schools are set to receive payments for sexual abuse, physical abuse and psychological abuse that they suffered in the schools.

Today is the deadline for former students to “opt out” of the class action settlement. If more than 5000 students drop out of the settlement, the court approval order considers the deal null and void. As of today, less than a hundred former students across the country have opted out and it is expected that the deal will be finalized today.

The class action settlement will pay out  two billion dollars in compensation to students who were forced to attend the schools.

In addition, former students who were seriously physically abused, sexually abused or who suffered serious psychological effects from attending the schools will be entitled to apply for additional payments of up to $250,000.00 each. It is expected that these payments will total an additional one billion to two billion dollars.

I am proud to have represented hundreds of survivors of the Shubenacadie Indian Residential Schools over the last dozen years. I wrote about the history of the claims negotiations here.

When the opt out deadline passes the Shubenacadie survivors, and 80,000 other former residential schools students, will have taken the final step towards receiving a recognition of the harm that they suffered as a result of Canada’s attempt at cultural assimilation to eliminate native people.

It’s about time.

Diocese Hiding Assets to Avoid Paying Sexual Abuse Judgements?

Andrew Sullivan has posted about the debate surrounding the San Diego Roman Catholic Diocese’s bankruptcy as a result of abuse claims. It appears the bankruptcy is being challenged due to allegations that the Diocese and some of it’s parishes have been hiding assets in an effort to avoid paying compensation to survivors of clergy sexual abuse.

It is generally accepted at law that all the assets of a Diocese, including those of it’s parishes, may be liquidated to satisfy civil judgements. The article states:

In response to the priest sex abuse liability crisis, there is a growing trend for diocesan assets to be divided among multiple incorporated entities.

In Canada the Christian Brothers of Ireland in Canada was the first charity in the Commonwealth to be wound up for tort liability (arising from the notorious Mt. Cashel abuse scandal.

In Canada there is an alternative argument to be made to prevent such egregious tactics by Churches. In the case of Re Winding up of the Christian Brothers of Ireland in Canada the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled:

When a charitable corporation is wound up, it ceases to carry out its charitable purposes, including the obligation to use assets held in trust for any special purposes. Hence, all assets held by the corporation, whether as a special purpose trust or not, were exigible to pay the tort claims made against the corporation.

Any assets held by an incorporated entity under Diocese are held for the charitable use and purpose of the Diocese. When that charitable purpose ends, so does any protection that the assets might have. Put simply, what could be less charitable than a Church trying to hide it’s assets from legitimate victims of sexual abuse?

B.C. will not charge Polygamists with Child Sexual Abuse

British Columbia has decided not to lay criminal charges of child sexual abuse against polygamists who are members of a Fundamentalist Mormon colony in Bountiful, B.C.

Several women who have escaped from the colony allege that uneducated, underage girls are pressured to marry much older men already married to other women.

Stat Guy has posted an article containing number of links documenting the history of the investigation and the Attorney General’s decision not to pursue criminal charges.

Richard Peck, the special prosecutor assigned to investigate the matter determined that Canada’s Criminal Code provisions prohibiting polygamy do NOT violate the Charter of Rights guarantee of Religious Freedom.

However, he did feel that the law needed clarification, and recommended a reference to the Supreme Court of Canada.

It appears that the basis for his recommendation not to pursue criminal charges as based on the fact that the children who were allegedly forced into the marriages all claimed to have consented to the marriages.

“The real issue here is that the number of so-called complainants that we have have all told us that they consented to the act that took place…

At the time the incidents are alleged to have taken place, the age of consent was 14, though it’s now been raised to 16.

“We really have no case as far as sex assaults are concerned…” 

Given the control that some religious organizations exercise over their members one has to ask: How legitimate the consent of a child can be when the request is made by the leader of the child’s church?

Jehovah’s Witness Pedophilia Coverup?

Black Sun Journal has posted a fascinating article about allegations of cover up of sexual abuse with the Jehovah’s Witness Watchtower Society.

It is not unusual (perhaps even commonplace) for religious organizations to deny or cover up allegations of sexual abuse; see for example here, here, here, here and so on …

In most cases where I have represented victims of clergy sexual abuse, the evidence has indicated that persons’ in authority within the Church either had knowlege of the abuse, or actively covered it up.

What struck me was the lengths to which the Watchtower Society will go to deny or cover up allegations  of sexual abuse within the Church. The article states:

Bowen’s group has criticized the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ policy that if an accused abuser denies the charge, two credible witnesses are required to establish guilt — due to literal application of such Bible verses as Deuteronomy 19:15 (“only on the evidence of two witnesses, or of three witnesses, shall a charge be sustained”).

If two witnesses are lacking, the accused is deemed innocent, charges remain confidential and — silentlambs says — parents who warn others are subject to disfellowshipping for slander.

Disfellowshipping is an extreme penalty that means a total cutoff of relationships by family members, friends and business associates who are Witnesses.

Sexual abuse is a crime of secrecy. Since most sexual abusers do not commit their criminal acts in the presence of witnesses the “two witnesses” requirement is one that would be next to impossible to meet.

To go even further by threatening victims who want to warn others of sexual abusers with being cut off from their family, friends and associates (the persons victims would turn to for help and support after being victimized) is perhaps an even greater betrayal than the sexual abuse itself.

In most jurisdictions in North America it is a crime for person’s in authority to fail to report allegations of sexual abuse to the approprite agency (Children’s Services etc.) so that the allegations can be investigated in an independent and unbiased manner.

Perhaps it is time that Religious groups be subjected to the same threat of criminal prosection as private citizens. See for example here .


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