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Two men launch $5M lawsuits against local school board for alleged historical sexual abuse

Both men suing Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board for abuse they allegedly endured as elementary students in the 1980s at hands of principal, vice-principal
20160328 Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board Sign KA 02
Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board file photo. Kenneth Armstrong/SooToday

WARNING: The following article includes graphic descriptions of alleged childhood sexual abuse, as disclosed in two separate lawsuits. The claims have not been tested in court.

The local English Catholic school board is being sued by two men who each claim they were sexually assaulted as children in the 1980s by staff at two different elementary schools in Sault Ste. Marie. 

The Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board (HSCDSB) is named as the defendant in both civil lawsuits, with each plaintiff seeking $5 million in damages. 

Both men claim the school board breached its duty of care by allowing the alleged abuse against them to occur. Both lawsuits were filed recently by Toronto-based Preszler Injury Lawyers.

SooToday is not naming the plaintiffs in either case because they are alleged victims of childhood sexual abuse.

None of the allegations contained in the lawsuits have been proven in court, and there is no evidence to suggest any school official identified in the statements of claim was ever charged criminally.

Only the HSCDSB is named as a defendant in the lawsuits. The alleged abusers are identified in the statement of claims, but they are not named as individual defendants.

Contacted by SooToday, a spokesman for the school board declined to comment on the lawsuits or confirm if the alleged abusers are still employed or associated with the board.

"The Huron Superior Catholic District School Board does not comment on any matter before the Courts, as it is inappropriate to do so,” said Jim Fitzpatrick, in an emailed response. "Legal claims are forwarded to legal counsel for further handling.”

In one statement of claim, the plaintiff says he was an elementary student at Holy Family Catholic School in Sault Ste. Marie. His lawsuit alleges that over many years from the age of nine, he was repeatedly sexually, verbally and physically abused by female vice-principal Catherine Paul, who worked there at the time.

He claims Paul fondled his clothed and unclothed body, forced him to fondle her clothed and naked body, and forced him to perform oral sex on her and other sexual and abusive activities.

SooToday was unable to reach Paul for comment. Again, she is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit and none of the allegations have been tested in court.

The plaintiff also accuses the school’s male principal at the time, who is not fully named in the lawsuit, of assault, including allegedly hitting him with a belt and throwing him against a wall.

The plaintiff claims he was "so profoundly negatively affected by these behaviours and activities that he spent many of the formative years of his life struggling to deal with the physical, mental, psychological and emotional effects of these events."

He claims he has been required to undergo medical treatment and psychological counselling and will continue to require same indefinitely throughout his lifetime.

In the second case, another Sault man says he was approximately six years old and attending Sister Mary Clare Catholic School in the mid-1980s. He claims he was repeatedly sexually abused over many years by the principal at the time, Gary Barone.

The man claims Barone, who died in 2017, fondled his clothed and naked body, hit him with a strap and engaged in other sexual and abusive activities with the plaintiff. 

He alleges that Barone used his position of authority and trust, and the dependency relationship he had fostered with the plaintiff, to ensure he did not tell anyone about the abuse.

“[The plaintiff] alleges that Barone's behaviour constituted sexual, verbal and physical abuse, battery and assault," reads the statement of claim. "It was also a breach of the duty of care that he owed to the plaintiff."

The lawsuit claims the school board is liable because it allegedly allowed Barone access to the plaintiff and afforded an opportunity to foster a trusting relationship with him. It provided Barone with the responsibilities and powers as a principal under its employ and provided him with the opportunity to abuse such responsibilities and powers, the statement of claim alleges.

”The abuse by Barone was related to the relationship of trust and intimacy between Barone and the plaintiff, [redacted], which arose as a result of Barone's position as a principal, a position granted to him by the Defendant, HSCDSB,” says the statement of claim.

As a result of the alleged abuse, the man says he suffers physical pain and mental anguish, shame, depression and an impairment of his ability to experience a normal adolescence and adulthood, among other effects.

He says he has been required to undergo medical treatment and psychological counselling and will continue to require same indefinitely throughout his lifetime.

Both plaintiffs are proposing their respective cases be heard in Sault Ste. Marie.

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Kenneth Armstrong

About the Author: Kenneth Armstrong

Kenneth Armstrong is a news reporter and photojournalist who regularly covers municipal government, business and politics and photographs events, sports and features.
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