A class-action lawsuit request has been filed against the city of Longueuil and the estate of François Lamarre, a youth hockey coach and police officer alleged to have sexually abused boys for decades.
The request seeks $10 million in punitive damages in addition to compensation for anyone who was harmed by Lamarre while he coached, arguing the city “turned a blind eye to his rampant and serial abuse.”
After being arrested last December, Lamarre, 71, pleaded not guilty to nine charges alleging he sexually abused and assaulted four boys between 1972 and 1997.
He died in July before the case could make it to trial.
“I always had the impression that I had faced two aggressors: François Lamarre, for what he did to me, and the police or the city, for what they didn’t do,” one of the four complainants in the criminal case, now 41, said Wednesday.
“Lamarre is dead now,” he added, “so the request for a class action is, for me, the beginning of getting justice for what the city never did.”
Lamarre was a Montreal police officer and coached youth hockey in Greenfield Park from 1970 to the early 2000s.
Filed on Tuesday, the request argues the city of Greenfield Park, which is now part of Longueuil, failed to protect the children involved in its hockey program.
“Parents who enrol their children in activities run by municipalities and other organizations have the right to expect that measures will be in place to ensure their safety,” Robert Kugler, of the law firm behind the action, Kugler Kandestin, said Wednesday.
“When the organizer of the event puts somebody in charge without proper vetting, who then systematically abuses the children and hurts the children over a period of decades,” Kugler added, “it’s our position the organizer is responsible.”
The city of Longueuil did not wish to comment on the request Wednesday.
The lead plaintiff in the case is a 58-year-old man who was also one of four complainants in the criminal case.
The man moved to Greenfield Park when he was nine years old, around 1971, and enrolled in its hockey program soon after, where Lamarre became his coach.
What would start off as play-fighting or roughhousing would often escalate to inappropriate touching and fondling, the request says.
“Although (he) considered Lamarre’s behaviour to be unusual, as he was only 10 years of age, he did not know what to do or say, and simply hoped the behaviour would stop,” it says. “It did not.”
The request says Lamarre went on to sexually abuse and assault the boy at the local hockey arena, in his car, and during biking trips around town.
It also alleges Lamarre used his position as a police officer to intimidate the boy, bringing him to the police precinct where he worked to show him the prison cells and prisoners.
The boy turned to alcohol by the age of 15 in an attempt to cope with what had allegedly been done to him, the request says, and has continued to battle anxiety, suicidal thoughts, misplaced shame and anger issues as a result.
Given the number of people who came forward following Lamarre’s arrest, complainants in the case and others who grew up in Greenfield Park have questioned how the investigation was handled over the years.
At least three people, including two of the complainants, have said they approached police about Lamarre as early as the late 1990s, but nothing was ever done.
After Lamarre died, police said Quebec’s Crown prosecutor’s office had authorized charges tied to 12 more alleged victims.
This week’s request argues there are many more.
“It is manifest that the victims who have come forward to date merely represent the tip of the iceberg,” it states, adding there could be “dozens, if not hundreds” of others.
The request needs to be approved by a judge before moving ahead.