Feb 11, 2021

Supreme Court of Canada denies leave to appeal in Loretta Merritt’s precedent setting Court of Appeal case

Irene Deschene was sexually abused as a child by priest Charles Sylvester of the Diocese of London in Ontario. As an adult she sued the church. In 2000, a settlement agreement was reached. In the lawsuit leading up to the settlement agreement, evidence was repeatedly presented by the Diocese that they first heard allegations that Mr. Sylvestre abused children in 1989 (years after Irene was abused) and they had no way to prevent Irene’s abuse because they did not, and could not have known about it. In 2006, documents came to light indicating the Diocese was notified in 1962 of three separate statements made to police regarding allegations of sexual abuse of three young girls by Mr. Sylvestre. There were also other earlier complaints. In 2008 Irene started a new action which alleged misrepresentation in the initial law suit and settlement. The Diocese brought a motion to dismiss Irene’s case on the basis of the settlement. The motion judge concluded, as an organization, the Diocese knew about the police records at the time the settlement was made and set aside the settlement. The Diocese appealed and the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal. Still not satisfied with the decision that the church’s cover up justified setting aside the settlement, the church sought leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. Today the Supreme Court of Canada said, "the application for leave to appeal...is dismissed with costs."

Lalonde v. Deschenes, 2020 ONCA 304 (39288)

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Loretta P. Merritt