Man to launch separate sexual abuse lawsuit against embattled N.S. diocese

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HALIFAX - Lawyers for a man who alleges he was abused by a Roman Catholic priest in Nova Scotia say their client is opting out of a recently announced class-action settlement and launching his own lawsuit.
A news release from the London, Ont., law firm of Ledroit Beckett late Tuesday said the alleged victim of sexual abuse will announce later this week the launch of his lawsuit against the Roman Catholic diocese of Antigonish and the archdiocese of Halifax.
He alleges he suffered sexual abuse as an altar boy by a now deceased priest in Havre Boucher, N.S.
The embattled diocese of Antigonish has made headlines recently after a $15-million settlement with alleged victims of sexual abuse and charges of child pornography against its former bishop who helped broker the deal.
The settlement - which was certified by a Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge - is aimed at compensating anyone who was allegedly and known to have been sexually assaulted by a priest of the Catholic Episcopal Corp. of Antigonish since Jan. 1, 1950.
However, the Ontario law firm says their client is dissatisfied with the deal and will file his own lawsuit before Thursday morning.
Aaron Lealess, a lawyer with the firm, said his client's rejection of the settlement is partly motivated by his reaction to news that the former bishop of the Antigonish diocese, Raymond Lahey, has been charged with possessing and importing child pornography.
"I think the opting out still might have happened, but the news about Lahey hinders victims' trust and belief in the settlement negotiated by Bishop Lahey," he said.
Lahey is to appear in an Ottawa court on the child pornography charges on Nov. 4.
Lealess says his client will reveal his identity and speak publicly on Thursday, after the lawsuit is filed before the Nova Scotia Supreme Court.
The lawyer would not provide details of the alleged abuse in an interview on Tuesday evening.
However, he said the priest alleged to have committed the sexual abuse of his client hasn't been named in the settlement that was hammered out last month. He also said that the priest had died.
Lealess said damages are being sought in the lawsuit, but he declined to specify precisely how much money his client is asking for.
The law firm's release alleges the abuse was committed by Rev. Allan MacDonald, who is now deceased.
Bruce MacIntosh, a lawyer for the Antigonish diocese, confirmed late Tuesday he was contacted directly by someone who alleged MacDonald had committed abuse.
MacIntosh said the person contacted him after the settlement was reached, but declined to comment further.
The original lawsuit was launched last year by Ronald Martin, whose brother wrote a suicide note in 2002 that led to charges of sex crimes against a priest from the diocese.
In the suit, Martin claimed that the diocese failed to protect children in its care when it became aware of the alleged abuse.
Under terms of the agreement, up to 70 people may receive a share of the money from the diocese of Antigonish for abuse. Claimants would go before retired justice Walter Goodfellow for adjudication of their claims.
The original suicide note by Martin's brother named Hugh Vincent MacDonald, a priest, as the abuser, a revelation that Ronald said, "nearly destroyed" him as it brought painful memories flooding back.
MacDonald was charged with multiple sex-related offences in 2003, but died a year later before the court process concluded.
John McKiggan, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, told the court he had gone through a protracted bargaining process with church lawyers over the diocese's responsibility.
McKiggan also had said in court that the parties believed the deal was "just and fair," and urged the judge to accept its main terms.
The original class-action lawsuit also involves allegations of abuse by four other priests, three of whom have been convicted of multiple counts of sexual assault against children in the care of the diocese.
Allegations made in the class-action have not been proven in court.
During the certification hearing on Sept. 10, McKiggan stated his firm had been retained by 39 claimants and contacted by about 50 other people looking for information about the lawsuit.
McKiggan said the settlement process will prevent fraudulent claims by having mutually agreed on "nationally-renowned experts" on sexual abuse examine the statements of any would-be claimants.
The archbishop of Halifax, Rev. Anthony Mancini, recently stated that the diocese still supported the settlement and considered it a positive resolution for both the church and the alleged victims of abuse.

Organizations: Nova Scotia Supreme Court, Catholic Episcopal Corp. of Antigonish, Martin's

Geographic location: Antigonish, HALIFAX, Nova Scotia London, Ont. Ontario Ottawa

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