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Men sue church, Ottawa for alleged abuse by priest

SIX men from a reserve in northwestern Ontario are suing a Winnipeg-based Roman Catholic organization for alleged sexual abuse committed against them by a priest in the 1960s.

The six men, from the Lac la Croix First Nation, are suing Les Oblats de Marie Immaculée du Manitoba, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Thunder Bay and the Government of Canada, asking the court to award them unspecified damages, general and punitive damages and damages for loss of past and future income.

The six men now range in age from 55 to 61. They allege they were regularly subjected to forced anal intercourse several times each summer when they were as young as nine until they reached the age of 14 or 15.

The men claim the priest who abused them, Father Jean Lambert, died in 1986. Lambert is also named as a defendant.

The six men filed separate court actions.

The allegations have not been proven in court. Statements of defence have not been filed. A court date has not been set.

The six men have engaged the same lawyer, Israel Ludwig, who said the men are not eligible to participate in the national residential school claims process.

Ludwig said Lambert was a missionary in the First Nation community during the 1960s but the school was not a residential school and not church-run.

As for the half-century delay in announcing the allegations, Ludwig said it was only now the men were able to summon the courage to go public.

Individuals abused in residential schools can protect their identities while they receive compensation, Ludwig said, adding that is not allowed for those who seek redress through the courts.

"It took them a long time to come to terms," Ludwig said.

The men allege the abuse occurred mostly in Lambert's room at the community's school.

In one instance, one of the men, now 60, alleges, the abuse occurred during the summer of 1968 while on a trip with Lambert in a motel in Crane Lake, Minn.

The men claim because of the alleged abuse, they became addicted to alcohol, have difficulties with sexual intimacy, suffer from anxiety and depression, and are unable to function properly in the workplace.

One of the men alleges Lambert got him drunk on wine before he forced himself on him, adding that happened on at least two occasions in 1963 and 1964.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

 

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