It has taken a decades-long legal fight with the Roman Catholic Church for the woman who was sexually assaulted by a priest while she was a child as she requests the London, Ont. Diocese to drop its Supreme Court appeal against her. Father Charles Sylvestre abused Irene Deschenes for two painful years that started when she was only ten years old, at St. Ursula Catholic School in Chatham, Ont.
According to Deschenes, at first, Sylvestre was friendly, taking her and other children for bowling outings and to the beach. However, things started turning sinister quickly. Sylvestre pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting 47 children in parishes across southern Ontario in 2006 and decades after Deschenes’ abuse. A year later, Sylvestre died in prison.
Deschenes established that the church knew about accusations regarding Sylvestre’s conduct for almost a decade before her abuse without divulging this information to her after settling with the church for $66,000 after lawyer’s fees.
According to Police reports dating back to 1962, Sylvestre assaulted three young girls where one of them was 11 years old.
They purported that Sylvestre touched them inappropriately and exposed himself to them. Thus, Deschenes is trying to reopen her case. Deschenes’ lawyer Loretta Merritt said their failure to act on the statements back then was what enabled Irene to be abused in the first place. The church is appealing the decision, which is now under consideration at the Supreme Court of Canada though, Ontario’s lower courts have all ruled that she can reopen the settlement.
Deschenes was not happy by their decision to take her to the Supreme Court of Canada because of something that happened to her when she was a little girl. Deschenes held a smaller demonstration on Tuesday, even as this year’s annual vigil for the survivors of sex abuse at the Catholic Church was postponed because of COVID-19. Deschenes and several supporters observed a moment of silence along the pathway to the St. Peter’s Basilica in downtown London. The Catholic Diocese of London acknowledged Deschenes’ demonstration but declined to comment on the legal situation as it’s before the courts.
Matthew Clarke, the Catholic Diocese of London’s spokesperson, also forwarded an earlier statement from when the case was appealed to the Supreme Court. The statement notes that it believes the church has “treated victims with the empathy and respect needed to help them receive justice and begin the healing process. Being fair and just means that settlements are reached based on the specific circumstances of each individual case, including that of Irene Deschenes. The Diocese believes there are important legal issues that need to the considered by the Supreme Court.”
In the meantime, another one of Sylvestre’s victims is sure the church is merely trying to avoid large payouts. Joanne Morrison said they would stop at nothing to protect the old boys’ club. Morrison added that Sylvestre started abusing her when she was just eight years old. She confirmed that they got abused regularly: weekly, and others daily.