Elite school to pay $5M for abuse allegations

Jan. 13 2009

CTV.ca News Staff

Selwyn House, the prestigious school for boys, is seen in Montreal on Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2009.


An exclusive Montreal boys' school must pay $5 million in damages to dozens of former students who say they were sexually assaulted by teachers over three decades, Quebec's top court said Tuesday.

The sex abuse allegations centre upon three former teachers at Selwyn House School and date back to the 1960s.

While the ruling was hailed as a victory, one of the alleged victims told CTV News that the school still hasn't fully accepted responsibility.

"Money doesn't get back anybody's lives," said the former student, who cannot be identified under a court order.

"There are so many destroyed lives," he added, signaling that he and others will continue to push for criminal charges against the school for allegedly covering up the abuse.

The Quebec Superior Court ruling marks the conclusion of a painful and protracted legal process and comes more than three years after several former students launched a class-action lawsuit against the school.

Last August, the court and the school agreed on a settlement, but the judge didn't approve the agreement because it didn't adequately address the legal rights of potential victims to opt out.

At least 34 students have come forward so far, but that number could grow over the next three months.

As part of the settlement, the school must pay for advertisements in major newspapers, notifying other potential victims that they have 90 days to contact lawyers working on the suit.

Court documents, which were unsealed in August, suggested that Selwyn House administrators were aware of the abuse complaints as early as 1971, but instead kept the allegations out of the public eye.

Selwyn House officials, meanwhile, have said they only became aware of the abuse allegations in 1991.

The teachers outlined in court documents are James Hill, Leigh Seville and John Aimers, who is the co-founder of the Monarchist League of Canada.

Seville killed himself in 1991 after the school confronted him about the sexual abuse complaints, and Hill's whereabouts aren't known.

"It is a victory," said lawyer Bryan McPhadden, who has represented some of the former students. He added that it's a victory for the claimants and "for justice."

Meanwhile, the school said it will soon release a letter apologizing to former students.

"We have agreed to issue a statement of regret and apology," Selwyn House representative Jonathan Goldbloom told CTV Montreal.

He added that the school is "upset" and shares "the anguish" of the former students.

In May of last year, a teacher at the school was arrested for allegedly soliciting sex online from a 13-year-old boy.

Richard Doucet, who taught elementary school, was arrested by police in a motel room in Fredericksburg, Va.

After his arrest, police searched Doucet's computer and allegedly found a CD filled with images of child pornography.