The United Church of Canada has been named alongside a dozen other defendants in a child sex abuse case involving offences that allegedly occurred in British Columbia between 1982 and the mid-1990s.
The claim was filed last year in the Supreme Court of British Columbia by S.C., identified only by initials to protect his privacy. The 46-year-old is seeking damages “well over seven figures,” Sandra Kovacs of Kazlaw Injury Lawyers told Broadview, pointing to previous civil sex abuse cases in Canada where plaintiffs have been awarded more than $2 million.
The key defendant, Jens Binderup Jensen, was convicted in 1994 in B.C. of various criminal charges, including counts arising from his sexual assault and battery of the plaintiff. Following incarceration, Jensen was deported to his native Denmark.
S.C. is seeking compensation for the numerous complex mental and physical symptoms that developed as a result of abuse that allegedly started at age five. These include physical injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and rage. This led to criminality, substance abuse and homelessness, according to the claim. Since then, S.C. has managed to establish a career in information technology.
The claim alleges that Jensen volunteered at Cultus Lake United Church Camp near Chilliwack, B.C. (It closed in 2014.) He also allegedly volunteered for Scouts Canada, specifically Beaver Scouts. The United Church, named as one of three “Youth Group Defendants” that includes Vancouver School District No. 39, is alleged to be “negligent in failing to follow requisite policies, regulations, bylaws, and/or any adequate procedures with regard to the selection and supervision of Jensen as a volunteer on the School Premises or Cultus Lake Premises.”
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Kovacs says that Jensen “obviously worked” for the United Church and Scouts Canada “to gain access to victims. If we can establish that he was a registered and documented volunteer with either of these organizations or both of them, then they will be held vicariously liable.” This means that a party is liable for the negligent actions of a third party for whom they were responsible. “They created the risk,” Kovacs says.
Kovacs hopes that the claim will be “re-empowering and healing” for her client.
Jennifer Henry, executive minister of organizational development and strategy at The United Church of Canada, stated in an email that “because the matter is in active litigation, we are unable to comment.”
Roberta Staley is a Vancouver-based author, magazine editor and documentary filmmaker.
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