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Lawsuit alleging B.C. priest and teacher sexually abused 6-year-old boy goes to trial

The plaintiff says he was repeatedly abused by Father John Kilty while he was a student at Holy Trinity Elementary School in North Vancouver, B.C. (Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver) The plaintiff says he was repeatedly abused by Father John Kilty while he was a student at Holy Trinity Elementary School in North Vancouver, B.C. (Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver)
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Lawyers for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver are in B.C. Supreme Court this week, answering to a lawsuit brought by a B.C. man who says he was sexually assaulted by a priest and a Catholic school teacher when he was six years old.

In a response to the lawsuit filed before the trial began Monday, the church admitted the abuse occurred in the 1970s, and admitted vicarious liability for the abuse. However, the church denies that it knew or ought to have known that the priest and teacher posed a risk to young boys in the community. It denies that it was negligent or complicit in the abuse, and therefore denies it owes damages to the plaintiff.

The alleged victim, who is given the pseudonym John Doe in the court filings, says he was repeatedly abused by Father John Kilty and teacher Raymond Clavin while he was a student at Holy Trinity Elementary School and a parishioner at Holy Trinity Parish in North Vancouver.

The church, in its response to the claim, acknowledged the plaintiff was a student at the school but denied he was a church parishioner.

Kilty, who died in 1983, was the pastor for Holy Trinity Parish from 1948 until 1982 and coached the boys' basketball team at Holy Trinity Elementary School.

Clavin, who is believed to be living in Europe but "cannot be located and has not participated in these proceedings," according to the plaintiff's lawyer, was a teacher and coach at the elementary school when the plaintiff was a student.

'Significant' damages sought

Doe alleges he was repeatedly and violently sexually assaulted by both men in a co-ordinated manner, which included forced fellatio and anal penetration. He also claims the priest drugged him and the teacher threatened to harm him.

The plaintiff says he has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental-health issues since the alleged abuse. He is seeking a host of punitive and special damages, as well as compensation for lost earning capacity as a result of the trauma.

His lawyer, Mallory Hogan, tells CTV News her client is "seeking significant compensatory and punitive damages" in the case but declined to put an exact dollar amount to the damages before the trial began.

Doe's claim alleges the church was "complicit in an operational culture that enabled Clavin and Kilty to sexually abuse male children who were students of Holy Trinity Elementary School and parishioners at Holy Trinity Parish."

Multiple allegations against priest

In December 2020, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver publicly acknowledged that it had reached a financial settlement with one of several men who had accused Kilty of sexual assault when they were minors in the 1970s. The church says it only became aware of the first allegations against the former priest in 2003, two decades after his death.

In its response to the lawsuit, the church denies there was an operational culture within the organization that "enabled the defendants, Kilty and Clavin, to sexually abuse male children who were students of Holy Trinity Elementary School and parishioners at Holy Trinity Parish."

The church also says that if Doe suffered injury or damage as a result of the alleged abuse, he failed to take steps to mitigate the injury, such as seeking counselling, medication or physical therapy.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Catherine Murray is presiding over the trial, which is scheduled to last four weeks in a New Westminster courtroom.

Last week, a former Victoria public school student was awarded more than $2.3 million in damages from the estate of a former school tutor who sexually abused him as a child. According to the former student's lawyers, the award constituted the "highest compensatory damages award for sexual abuse in Canada."

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