On Thursday, January 14, 2021, the Supreme Court of Canada declined to hear a last-ditch appeal from the Catholic Church, meaning that the Archdiocese of St. John’s is liable for the abuse perpetrated upon dozens of boys at the Mount Cashel orphanage from the 1950s to the 1970s.
The CBC reports that “The church is now liable to pay the outstanding bills left behind by the Christian Brothers of Ireland [in Canada] when the organization went bankrupt from settling child abuse lawsuits in 2012.”
The lawsuit began in 2000, with four victims serving as test cases for 60 men. In 2018, the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador ruled the Archdiocese of St. John’s was not liable for the abuse. This was overturned by the Court of Appeals of Newfoundland and Labrador in July 2020. Because the Supreme Court of Canada declined to hear the case, the Appeals Court ruling is binding and the Catholic Church will be responsible for compensating the victims. The full amount for the 60 survivors has yet to be determined, though a lower court set damages at $2.61 million for four victims.
One of the four men directly involved in the lawsuit, John Doe No. 26, reacted to the ruling: “A feeling of lightness. Incredulity, I guess, to a degree. Something is gone. Something heavy that was weighing you down, and it’s gone. […] How many scars, bumps, injuries would I not have experienced if I did not have to go that road? […] I’m in my 80s. I look with — I can’t say regret — but longing for the days that could have been. […] I thought also about my brothers [who were also at the orphanage]. One who has passed away. Two who are in long-term care and one is just about ready to go. They were not as fortunate as I have been.”
The plight of the orphans at Mount Cashel was dramatized in the 1992 NFB TV miniseries The Boys of St. Vincent.