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‘Culture of silence’: New class action alleges sexual abuse at Manitoba youth facility



A proposed class action lawsuit alleges acts of sexual, mental and sexual abuse against Manitoba youth by an organization tasked with helping them.


The details of the case are outlined in a statement of claim filed in May 2023, outlining two plaintiffs’ experiences at Marymound, a group home care facility for children and school near Kildonan Park.


“For the children living and attending school at Marymound, the experience has been one of persistent, unchanging, and unyielding abuse,” reads the statement of claim, filed on May 12, 2023.


The Province of Manitoba, Marymound Inc., and the Reseau Compassion Network, the umbrella organization that oversees Marymound, as defendants in the case.


According to the plaintiffs in the case, both of whom were said to have attended Marymound for years in the mid-1990s, the staff at the children’s group home often resorted to “arbitrary, excessive, and coercive forms of physical punishment,” that included acts of sexual assault, forced starvation, and lack of access to toilets.


“And that nothing was done about it,” said Alec Angle, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs in the case, “That (the plaintiffs) repeatedly raised these concerns with staff from Marymound, with staff from the Department of Child and Family Services, and no steps were taken to protect them.”


The suit also alleges there was a “culture of silence” at Marymound, with children discouraged from coming forward with allegations of abuse or were ignored entirely.


The claim notes many children are sent to Marymound by Child and Family Services agencies, described as a “vulnerable subset of society.” A majority of the children at Marymound are also Indigenous.


“This is a situation where children are completely disconnected from their families, completely disconnected from a normal childhood,” said Angle. “In that way, there are echoes of the residential school system.”


The case still needs to be certified as a class action by the Court of King’s Bench of Manitoba to continue.


If the class action does move forward, the plaintiffs are seeking damages, punitive damages, and a declaration that the province was negligent in its duties towards the children at Marymound.


Anyone who attended Marymound from 1951 to today can add their name to the class action.


“Right now, our focus is on making sure there is enough space for anyone who has experienced these types of things to come forward… and to share their stories,” said Angle, noting inquiries can be sent to marymoundclassaction@kmlaw.ca.


Réseau Compassion Network has confirmed it is aware of the case and will cooperate in any forthcoming legal proceedings.


“Every form of abuse involving someone who is being cared for by any organization affiliated to Réseau Compassion Network, no matter when it took place, is unacceptable,” reads a statement from the organization, which funds and operates sixteen Catholic organizations.


“Since this claim is before the court, however, Réseau Compassion Network cannot comment any further on the matter.”


The Province of Manitoba also declined to comment while the case is before the courts.


None of the charges have been proven in court.



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