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Illegal contact between the defense and an alleged victim of Mont d’Youville

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The Sisters of Charity and the CIUSSS of the Capitale-Nationale are being prosecuted for physical, sexual and psychological abuse allegedly committed by around a hundred attackers at the Mont d'Youville orphanage. The building now houses the Quebec Youth Center. (Archive photo)

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The Superior Court calls to order the Sisters of Charity of Quebec, their lawyers and the security agency Garda after investigator unlawfully made contact with member of congregational class action.

The action was brought by former residents of the Mont d'Youville orphanage, in Quebec, who claim to have suffered various physical, sexual and psychological abuse there. The establishment was under the responsibility of the Sisters of Charity until the early 1970s, when it came under the control of the Quebec state.

The intervention of the Court results from a communication campaign among former residents of Mont d'Youville carried out by Garda at the request of lawyers for the Sisters of Charity .

The campaign aimed to find residents who were not part of the collective action in order to assert the nuns' defenses. The electronic communication sent to residents read as follows:

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I am an investigator for the firm GardaWorld and we were mandated by the law firm Fasken Martineau Dumoulin to find former residents of Mont d'Youville, as part of a class action. As part of this investigation, we obtained information that you may be a former resident. This communication is only addressed to you if you are not a member of the collective action. In the event that you are not a member of the collective action, I invite you to contact me at 1- 877-398-****/70***.

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After the takeover of Mont d'Youville by the Quebec government and the hiring of lay people, the Sisters of Charity gradually withdrew from the management of the establishment, which is now part of the CIUSSS de la Capitale -National. (Archive photo)

One of the people who received the communication indicated to the investigator that they were a member of the collective action. Despite this, the investigator informed her that he would telephone her to ask her questions that might help her in her work. The investigator complied and held a conversation with the member.

Another member of the action collective received a similar communication, but he did not speak with the investigator.

After taking knowledge of the facts, the plaintiff at the origin of the collective action, Denis Leclerc, requested the intervention of the Court.

The Sisters of Charity, their lawyers and Garda do not dispute that communication took place between an investigator from the security firm and a member of collective action. However, they maintain that it was an accidental communication.

In a decision rendered on December 21, Superior Court Judge Étienne Parent criticizes the Sisters' lawyers for not having taken the necessary measures to ensure that their agent, Garda, does not come into contact with members of collective action.

[Sisters of Charity] lawyers assumed responsibility surrounding implementation of the Garda investigation. It was their responsibility to take all necessary measures to minimize the risk of the slippage that ultimately materialized. It is easy to see that these measures were not taken, wrote the magistrate.

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Alleged victims of assault sexual, physical and psychological which allegedly occurred at Mont d'Youville until 1996 demonstrate in front of the National Assembly in spring 2022. (Archive photo)

He notes that the notice sent by Garda was clearly imprecise and vague, the identity of the client of the firm Fasken Martineau Dumoulin appearing nowhere. Furthermore, the communication does not provide any definition, even summary, of the group forming part of the collective action.

However, the recipient is told that the communication is not addressed to him if he is a member of the collective action. How can this member know if he is a member targeted by the collective action, especially since the latter is not specified? asks Judge Parent.

The Tribunal finds that all information gathered by the [Sisters of Charity] up until the Garda investigation was suspended was obtained in a manner which brings the administration of justice into disrepute.

A quote from Excerpt from the decision rendered by the Superior Court of Quebec on December 21

The magistrate orders the Sisters of Charity of Quebec, their lawyers and Garda to communicate to the plaintiff, within 15 days of the judgment, all the information exchanged, interview notes and recordings occurring during the exchanges between the member of the collective action and the Garda investigator, as well as any report, in whatever form, from Garda to the lawyers and lawyers to the nuns.

The judge also orders them to transmit to the plaintiff their sworn declarations confirming that the elements communicated concerning the member constitute the entirety, unaltered of these elements and that no other exists.

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The class action brought against the Sisters of Charity of Quebec concerns the abuse allegedly suffered by the residents of Mont d' Youville between 1925 and 1996. (Archive photo)

Representatives of the Sisters, from the firm Fasken Martineau Dumoulin and Garda will also have to communicate their affidavits confirming that no communication with members other than those mentioned in the applicant's application for intervention took place between them and members of the group between the start of the investigation of Garda and his suspension in August 2023.

They must also undertake to immediately notify the applicant's lawyers of any other communication that may occur with a member if the investigation were to continue.

The judge prohibits the nuns, their lawyers and Garda from communicating directly or indirectly with the members of the class action.

If they were to contact former residents of Mont d&#x27 again ;Youville who are not part of the class action, the judge orders that the content of all communications must be approved by the Court beforehand.

The class action trial filed against the Sisters of Charity of Quebec is expected to begin in September 2024, four years after the appeal was authorized.

With the collaboration of Yannick Bergeron and Raphaël Beaumont-Drouin

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Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116