Antigonish abuse settlement going as expected

By  Brian Lazzuri, Catholic Register Special
  • March 23, 2011
Antigonish Bishop Brian DunnANTIGONISH, N.S. - The settlement of a class-action lawsuit filed against the diocese of Antigonish on behalf of victims of sexual abuse remains on track and is meeting its timelines.

“It is going the way we anticipated it going,” said diocesan spokesman Fr. Paul Abbass.

“The response of the parish and the generosity of the parishes in this pooling, albeit very difficult for them, has been very good.”

In August 2009, the diocese agreed to pay $13 million relating to sexual abuse cases dating back several decades. Then-Bishop Raymond Lahey announced the deal, shortly before being charged himself with importing and possessing child pornography. Lahey will be in court to face these charges next month.  

The diocese has collected about $4 million from parishes and sold nearly $2 million of real estate listed as non-core assets. Non-core assets include parish and diocesan properties not currently in use as worship spaces or as residences for priests. The diocese is also looking to sell its 62-per-cent stake in the Casket Printing and Publishing Company (2006) Ltd.

A web site ( lists the properties which are being sold. Individual properties are being listed by local realtors and include a short description and a link to the information page on

Several Antigonish-area properties have been sold, or placed for sale. Properties in Bayfield and St. Josephs are the most recent ones added to the list.

The 16-hectare Bayfield Beach Road property associated with Immaculate Conception parish in Heatherton is listed at $1.2 million. The property has been subdivided into 15 different lots. In St. Josephs there are five lots, each listed for $35,000, for sale. The lots lie next to and near St. Joseph Church.

A 1.75-hectare lot within the town of Antigonish and 12 hectares in Georgeville are listed on the web site as being sold. The Silverwood property, which is next to the bishop’s residence, was listed for $325,000. The acreage in Georgeville was listed for $16,500.

The web site lists diocesan properties for sale by county. An 11-hectare commercial property on Grand Lake Road, Sydney, is the most expensive property listed.

Other notable properties already sold include the Diocesan Pastoral Centre in Sydney, the former Holy Redeemer church hall, a house and lots in Northside East Bay and a former convent in Pictou. The pastoral centre sold for $289,900 and the church hall, deemed as excess by the parish, was sold to a group of Muslims who will convert the space into a mosque. The Pictou convent is being converted into residential space.

“The real estate sales have gone very well,” Abbass said. “January and February were slow but we were told to expect that the market is not strong at that time of year but things have picked up. Sales continue and we are optimistic that if this trend continues that we should be able to meet our goals.”

In a January interview, Antigonish Bishop Brian Dunn said he was encouraged by the progress being made on the sale of properties.

“This year we will have to pay about $6 or $7 million and we will have most of that by November,” Dunn said.

“We are very optimistic. Since the fall we have had quite a number of sales of large pieces of land so there are some good things happening there. You are talking about 400 pieces of property so it is a huge land sale for not only the diocese but one of the most extensive ones in Nova Scotia and in all of Canada. It is a major process.”

(Lazzuri is a writer in Antigonish, N.S.)

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