Quebec judge authorizes class action against former principal, EMSB over sexual assault allegations

The legal action, which seeks $16.2 million in damages and interest, targets the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) and a former principal who was accused of sexually assaulting former students. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press - image credit)
The legal action, which seeks $16.2 million in damages and interest, targets the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) and a former principal who was accused of sexually assaulting former students. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press - image credit)

A Quebec Superior Court judge approved a class-action lawsuit against a former Montreal school principal over sexual assault allegations by former students.

The legal action, which seeks $16.2 million in damages and interest, also targets the English Montreal School Board (EMSB), which was established in 1998.

Former students allege they were sexually abused by Phillip Hart Baugniet, while he was a principal or a teacher between the 1960s and the 1990s at three EMSB schools — FACE, Victoria School and Lachine High School. Baugniet now lives in British Columbia.

Last year, a class-action lawsuit application was filed by lawyers representing the former students.

Pierre Boivin, the lawyer representing the lead plaintiff in the class action, said his client is relieved.

The alleged victim was "destroyed by the sexual abuse" and that his life was "totally affected by it," according to Boivin.

His client filed "not only on his behalf, but to help other victims so he's proud," said Boivin, calling the situation stressful. "He should be proud. He knows that we would all go forward to the trial, if needed, for justice to be rendered."

The lead plaintiff is a man in his early 40s who was allegedly sexually assaulted by Baugniet when he was a student at FACE. He is referred to as "C." in the lawsuit.

The class-action application mentions that, during the 1988-89 school year, C. was allegedly sexually assaulted during a trip organized by Baugniet at his farm in Cornwall, Ont.

The trip was part of FACE's school activities, and the plaintiff was seven years old at the time.

None of these allegations have been proven in court.

A spokesperson for the EMSB said Saturday that the board would not be commenting on the case since it is before the courts.

Quebec prosecutor confirms 2 Montreal charges

Quebec prosecutors confirm Baugniet faces two charges in connection to a Montreal case with offences allegedly committed between 1969 and 1971.

According to Quebec's Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecution, Baugniet is accused of committing an act of gross indecency as well as indecent assault with intent to commit buggery, both which were charges under the Criminal Code at the time.

Last October, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) said Baugniet had been accused of sexually assaulting six students in the 1970s, '80s and '90s in South Stormont Township, Ont.

He was charged with numerous offences, including:

  • Seven counts of indecently assaulting a male.

  • Two counts of sexual assault.

  • Three counts of sexual interference.

  • Buggery.

  • Sexually assaulting a person under 16 years of age.

The investigation began in May of last year after Montreal police contacted the OPP.

Baugniet was later arrested by the OPP at a police station in Victoria, B.C., and was released from custody after a bail hearing.

CBC News contacted Baugniet's lawyer for the criminal case. He was not available to provide a response in time for this article's publication.