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Historic sexual abuse settlement ‘serves as precedent,’ says judge

The reasons for approving the $13 million settlement in the Ralph Rowe class action lawsuit involving historic sexual abuse against dozens of Indigenous youth have been released.
Thunder Bay Courthouse Winter 2021

THUNDER BAY -- The superior court judge who approved a historic sexual abuse class action settlement involving a former priest and Scouts Canada leader said it will serve as a precedent for future claims in the country.

“The settlement terms achieved in this class action are historic and will serve as a precedent for the thoughtful resolution of future claims of historic sexual assault and institutional liability for abuses perpetrated on vulnerable youth and individuals,” said Justice Bonnie Warkentin.

Warkentin’s reasons for approving the settlement in the class action lawsuit against Ralph Rowe, the Anglican Synod of the Diocese of Keewatin, and Scouts Canada were released earlier this month.

The proposed settlement was first approved by Warkentin in October 2023, with several survivors present in a Thunder Bay courtroom for her decision.

First filed in 2017, the class action was related to sexual abuse of Indigenous youth committed by Rowe between 1975 and 1985 while he was a priest and Scout leader in the geographic boundaries of the Anglican Diocese of Keewatin in Northern Ontario.

The abuse was carried out during Diocesan and Scouts camping trips, as well as other community events throughout the region, and involved dozens of victims.

Rowe has been convicted of numerous charges throughout the last 30 years, including nine counts of sexual assault in 1988 and 33 counts of sexual assault in 1994.

Between 2005 and 2012, Rowe faced more than 100 additional counts of sexual assault. Not all the charges proceeded to trial, but Rowe did end up pleading guilty to 20 counts and was found guilty of five additional counts of the 12 that went to trial.

The settlement reached between the parties included the Diocese of Keewatin, Scouts Canada, and the Anglican Church of Canada collectively paying $13.25 million into an interest-bearing trust account to be used to pay legal fees, administrative costs, and compensation to class members.

Class members are entitled to compensation ranging between $30,000 and $350,000 based on an allocation system relating to the abuse suffered and ongoing physical and mental trauma.

Warkentin said in her reasons that the importance of the settlement cannot be emphasized enough because it provides class members with immediate access to settlement funds.

“The class members are vulnerable survivors of horrific child sexual abuse. Many of them live in difficult conditions in remote communities and many died prior to the commencement of this litigation, some through suicide,” Warkentin said.

“Absent a settlement with the option for a low barrier claims process, there was a risk that many class members would not participate because of the likelihood of being re-traumatized. Without the settlement, the litigation would have dragged on leaving many class members unable to obtain compensation during their lifetimes.”

According to Warkentin, the financial compensation was only part of what made approving the settlement necessary.

“In addition to the financial compensation, claimants will receive personalized apologies from the Anglican Church and Scouts Canada as well as assistance in obtaining therapeutic support as they progress through the claims process that will be financed from the settlement fund,” she said.

“Legal assistance will be provided by class counsel at no additional cost to the claimants.”

Alvin McKay of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation was abused by Rowe and served as the representative plaintiff in the class action.

Following the approval of the settlement in October, McKay said he feels like he and other survivors are still fighting because the pain and suffering will never go away.

Warkentin once again commended McKay for coming forward and serving as a voice for all survivors of Rowe’s abuse.

“Mr. McKay’s willingness to stand in this role significantly contributed to the resolution of this class action. Many more victims of the sexual abuse perpetrated by Rowe are now able to claim compensation without having to make their personal experiences matters of public record,” she said.

“Mr. McKay, by taking on the role of representative plaintiff, has also ensured that the broader public has been informed of the horrific abuses that were inflicted on vulnerable children in remote Northern communities by Rowe under the guise and authority of an Anglican priest and a Scout leader.”

Warkentin applauded class counsel for insisting on a resolution that includes a trauma-informed approach, as well as defence counsel for agreeing to continue negotiations until a settlement was reached.

“The settlement sets a precedent for future claims of this nature to benefit those who have suffered abuses by individuals in authority and by institutional failures to protect vulnerable children in their care or under their control,” she said.

Class action members or survivors of abuse committed by Rowe who have not previously settled a lawsuit are encouraged to contact Koskie Minsky LLP by phone at 1-888-353-6661 or email at

Information on the settlement and claims process can be found at

Doug Diaczuk

About the Author: Doug Diaczuk

Doug Diaczuk is a reporter and award-winning author from Thunder Bay. He has a master’s degree in English from Lakehead University
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