A British Columbia man says he was sexually abused by a Roman Catholic school teacher in 1981, six years after the teacher’s confession of abusing children at an orphanage on the other end of the country was covered up.
Darren Liptrot came forward on Monday and filed a proposed class-action lawsuit at a courthouse in Vancouver. It was a momentous step for a man who said he’s agonized over childhood trauma for nearly 40 years.
“I struggle with addiction still,” said Liptrot in an interview with CBC News on Monday. “I really struggle with authority. I struggle with family.”
He’s accusing Edward Patrick English, a teacher with the Christian Brothers of Ireland in Canada, of sexually abusing him when he was in grades 9 and 10 at Vancouver College.
English is notorious in Newfoundland and Labrador. He received the heftiest sentence — 10 years — in a series of highly publicized trials in the early nineties that followed a reopening of a police investigation that was shut down and covered up in 1975.
English and another brother, Alan Ralph, confessed to abusing boys in their care at Mount Cashel. The chief of police intervened the day after English’s confession and asked the investigating officer to destroy his report.
The Christian Brothers quietly shuffled English, and one other brother, out of the province in return for no charges being laid.
The secrecy surrounding English and the coverup would explode in 1989, when a royal commission pulled back the curtain on decades of abuse at the orphanage in St. John’s.
By that time, the lawsuit alleges, English and five other Christian Brothers from Mount Cashel had moved on to a pair of schools in British Columbia — Vancouver College and St. Thomas More.
Lawyer expecting more victims to come forward
Liptrot was in the ninth grade when he got a new religion teacher. He struggled in the subject and wanted to do whatever he could to keep his grades up. He decided to stay after school with Brother English.
“I wanted to succeed, and he seemed to provide that [opportunity] for me, and so I took that. I volunteered initially and shortly after it became a necessity, or be punished.”
In his lawsuit, Liptrot alleges English molested and abused him for the next two years. He felt he was alone, but now looking back, he said he recognizes the signs of grooming with other classmates.
His lawyer, Joe Fiorante, intends for the case to be a class-action lawsuit representing Liptrot and anyone else who chooses to come forward with stories of abuse at the two schools from 1976 to 1995.
“One of the reasons Mr. Liptrot has come forward and put his name on the case is to hopefully open a path for others to now participate in the justice system and have their day in court,” Fiorante said.
Suit targets church, schools
A recent decision by the Court of Appeal of Newfoundland and Labrador will serve as a roadmap for the case.
That decision, upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada, found the Catholic Church liable for the abuse suffered at Mount Cashel.
Fiorante hopes to use the same approach to hold the Archdiocese of Vancouver liable, along with the two schools — Vancouver College and St. Thomas More.
It also names the Archdiocese of St. John’s, alleging the church in Newfoundland had a duty to stop the abuse in 1975 but failed.
“The Archdiocese of St. John’s certainly must have known what was happening at Mount Cashel,” he said. “You’ve seen repeated court decisions involving their ownership of Mount Cashel, their control over Mount Cashel. And yet, somehow they permitted these brothers, who were also teachers in St. John’s, to leave the province and resume teaching duties in other Catholic schools in Canada.”
The largest archdiocese in Newfoundland is already facing a financial wrecking ball, owing $2 million to the four plaintiffs in the recent Mount Cashel case. More than 50 other men are expected to follow suit and seek compensation for their experiences at the orphanage using the same arguments as the other four.
Where is Edward English?
Fiorante and Liptrot may have a tough task on their hands.
Aside from the complex legal arguments to prove liability lies with the schools and the archdioceses, there’s also the question of whether Edward English is even alive.
Fiorante said they have reason to believe the 73-year-old English is still out there, although they don’t know where he resides.
It’s an extraordinary failure of our justice system, a failure of the Catholic church as an institution, and a failure of these schools to reckon with that problem.– Joe Fiorante
English was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 1991 for his role at Mount Cashel. In his sentencing decision, Justice Gerald Lang did not mince words, calling English a coward and a “sadist who does not deserve to be called a Christian.”
“I have been in the law now for 30 years, and this is my 11th year as a judge and about my 85th jury trial; and I should say this has been the worst trial I’ve had to preside over,” he told the courtroom.
“I had wished and hoped that Brother English would have said that he was guilty and that he couldn’t help what he was doing and ask for forgiveness and show some remorse.”
A rude awakening
Liptrot didn’t know any of this for 33 years.
Life sent him careening in every which direction at the peril of his addictions. In 2014, a friend reached out to him and told him about English’s criminal record in Newfoundland.
He was eight years sober at that point, but said he relapsed a day later and spent another 1½ years spiralling.
Liptrot said he eventually sought legal advice, and his lawyer told him about the Hughes Inquiry in Newfoundland and Labrador, and all the evidence that came out of it about English’s confession and its coverup.
| From 1994, a documentary on the Mount Cashel Orphanage scandal:
“That’s when I learned of the past. That’s when I learned the details of how he came into my life, of how he came into my school,” he said. “I’m obligated and compelled to do my best to bring about accountability and responsibility.”
Fiorante said the Christian Brothers of Ireland in Canada hid its abusers in plain sight.
“It’s an extraordinary failure of our justice system, a failure of the Catholic Church as an institution, and a failure of these schools to reckon with that problem, and unfortunately our client is the cost of those decisions. The human cost of failing to deal with it at the time when it first surfaced.”
Neither Liptrot nor Fiorante know how widespread the abuse was at the two schools from 1976 to 1995.
English was named in a lawsuit in 2007, accusing him of raping and physically abusing a boy at St. Thomas More Collegiate between 1978 and 1980.
It was settled out of court.
None of the allegations in either British Columbia lawsuit has been tested in court.
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