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Quebec court orders religious group to compensate victims of sexual abuse

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MONTREAL - A Quebec court has ordered a religious group to compensate victims of sexual abuse involving several of the organization's priests — a total payout that could eventually reach millions of dollars.

The Quebec Superior Court ruled Thursday that the Redemptorist Order will have to pay at least $75,000 in damages to each victim who attended the Saint-Alphonse Seminary between 1960 and 1987.

So far, 70 ex-students have come forward alleging they were assaulted while attending the now-defunct Quebec City-area school.

A lawyer representing the victims says he expects the decision to encourage more former students to make claims, which he believes could double or triple the total compensation.

"It's the tip of the iceberg," said lawyer Pierre Boivin.

"In a class-action (suit), people don't communicate with us until there is a judgment."

In his ruling, Justice Claude Bouchard said ex-students who can prove they were victims of assault "of a particular nature" will also be eligible for an additional $75,000.

Boivin said the Roman Catholic order has the funds to pay the damages, which could end up totalling several million dollars.

Former student Frank Tremblay launched the suit in 2010 against the order, the school and his attacker, Rev. Raymond-Marie Lavoie.

To this day, only Lavoie has been convicted of criminal charges. In 2011, he pleaded guilty to 18 counts involving 13 victims over an 11-year period from 1973 to 1984 and was sentenced to jail time.

Of the nine priests named in the class-action suit, six are dead and the other three have claimed that they live below the poverty line.

The judge ordered Tremblay be awarded the full amount of $150,000.

Tremblay called the ruling a "historic victory."

But he said Thursday his main source of satisfaction came from the fact the Quebec Superior Court believed him.

"The whole organization was gangrenous and Justice Bouchard saw that very well," Tremblay told The Canadian Press.

Carlo Tarini, a spokesman for the Quebec Association of Victims of Priests, calls Tremblay "a genuine hero" for coming forward.

"The Redemptorist fought like alley cats to defend the indefensible," Tarini said.

"They did everything to prevent the victims from testifying, and when they did, they were astonishingly evil — especially for people who give lessons in morality."

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