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Woman alleges decade of abuse by N.S. priest Add to ...

A Halifax woman has filed a lawsuit against a Roman Catholic diocese in Nova Scotia, alleging that she endured nearly a decade of sexual assaults by a priest who took her in as a little girl and forced her to call him uncle.

Linda Deschamp states in the suit filed in the province's Supreme Court that the cycle of abuse began after Rev. Raoul Deveau offered her a job cleaning the rectory in the small community of Shelburne when she was 11 years old.

Ms. Deschamp alleges in the statement of claim that when she went to the rectory she was repeatedly sexually assaulted by the priest, who died in the early 1980s.

John McKiggan, Ms. Deschamp's lawyer, said Tuesday that the now middle-aged woman then moved in with the priest to help her impoverished, devout parents and was instructed to call him uncle.

The suit names the diocese of Yarmouth and Halifax Archbishop Anthony Mancini, who oversees the diocese, as defendants and claims the church failed to intervene and "stop this improper relationship.

"She lived with him for almost 10 years and was subjected to ongoing sexual assaults for that entire period," Mr. McKiggan said. "Linda feels that the diocese is responsible for what happened to her."

Mr. McKiggan states in the five-page claim that a bishop presiding over Father Deveau's parishes relocated the priest after receiving complaints over his alleged "sexual misconduct" involving another female child.

The statement says Bishop Austin Burke assigned Father Deveau to the St. Thomas parish where Ms. Deschamp lived.

"The diocese and the bishop knew or ought to have known that Deveau posed a real risk of sexually assaulting the plaintiff and other children in the parish of St. Thomas," the statement reads.

The statement says Bishop Burke did not warn parishioners of Father Deveau's alleged "sexual misconduct."

Mr. McKiggan alleges that Bishop Burke moved Father Deveau around because of complaints of misconduct and relocated him again after people complained about his living arrangement with Ms. Deschamp.

When reached at home, Bishop Burke confirmed that he was the bishop in the Yarmouth area and that he knew Father Deveau. But he said he was unaware of the lawsuit and its allegations. He declined further comment.

The statement of claim contains allegations that have not been proven in court.

A spokeswoman for Archbishop Mancini said the Halifax diocese where he works was served with the claim Tuesday, but couldn't comment on it because it's before the courts.

Ms. Deschamp moved with Father Deveau to another parish, where she lived with him until she was 21 and was told to tell people she was his niece, according to the claim.

Mr. McKiggan said Father Deveau was ordained in 1943 and moved through a variety of Nova Scotia parishes, including the communities of Bridgewater, Kentville, St. Bernard and Annapolis Royal, where he died.

The claim, filed Dec. 24, states that the bishop and diocese failed to investigate or discharge Father Deveau for allegedly sexually assaulting children when they "knew or ought to have known that failure to do so would present a danger to Linda and other children of the parish."

The suit doesn't specify damages, but claims Ms. Deschamp suffered nervous shock, depression, substance addiction and sexual dysfunction.

"She's had a very difficult life, she's had a number of breakdowns," Mr. McKiggan said. "It's had a significant impact on her life."

Last year, a historic class-action settlement was reached to compensate dozens of alleged victims of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests in Nova Scotia in the 1950s after a lawsuit was filed against the Antigonish diocese and Halifax archdiocese.

McKiggan said Deschamp decided to come forward with her allegations now after hearing about that settlement.

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