Judge likely to approve high school sex abuse settlement
A Quebec Superior Court justice says she will likely approve in about two weeks a settlement in a class action lawsuit against the English Montreal School Board and one of its former teachers who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting eight male students from the 60's to the early 80's.
So far 35 claimants have stepped forward out of a possible 60, all former Montreal West High School students who had Renwick Spence as a teacher for biology, cross country skiing or homeroom. In 2007, Spence was sentenced to 30 months for sexually abusing the students and he was paroled in 2009.
"It was a traumatic, upsetting and damaging experience," said Sebastian (not his real name), who was 15 when Spence sexually assaulted him.
"I wouldn't wish it upon anyone, certainly not a 14 or 15-year-old kid to go through what Mr. Spence inflicted on people," he told CJAD 800 News.
Sebastian's lawyers said in court it's a challenge to contact possible claimants because it's a delicate issue, adding people need lots of courage to come forward and it's extremely difficult for them. Lawyers said they used Facebook to reach some of them.
The claimants allege the EMSB, then known as the Protestant School Board of Greater Montreal, knew about the abuse but did nothing. In the proposed settlement, the board is denying any liability or wrongdoing. Their lawyer told the judge they worked hard to reach a fair and efficient settlement.
If judge Chantal Corriveau approves the settlement, eligible claimants would split a maximum of $5-million, with a base amount of $35,000. The first cheques could go out as soon as the new year and the whole deal settled by the summer.
Sebastian said he knows it falls way short of compensation for victims.
"My message is, I hope they can find some peace through the settlement."