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Nova Scotia parishes raise millions for sex abuse victims

A Nova Scotia diocese trying to raise money to compensate victims who were sexually assaulted by priests says it has completed a collection of the liquid assets of most parishes.

Fr. Paul Abbass, a spokesman for the diocese, told the Cape Breton Post that at least 70 per cent of all parishes have sent their money into a trust account expected to reach about $15 million.

The fund will be used to compensate victims who were sexually assaulted by any priest of the diocese between Jan. 1, 1950, and Sept. 10, 2009.

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Mr. Abbass says the diocese is pleased with the way the parishes have responded and he says the financial goals are on track.

He says none of the parishes refused to provide a list of assets that could be sold.

The settlement is part of a class action lawsuit filed by Ron Martin of Sydney and was designed to allow alleged and known survivors to file a claim for compensation without having to endure the rigours of a public trial.

Parishes across the diocese were told to hand over any assets accumulated up until Feb. 28, 2009, and all church lands, unoccupied homes and associated church buildings, including halls that are not considered core assets to the operation of the parish.

Parishes were told they could keep $10,000 for operating expenses, a church cemetery fund, or any monies held in trust that cannot legally be accessed by the diocese.

A Facebook fan page started in February is concerned about the sale of one of the settlement assets located in Cape Breton.

The Do Not Sell Sangaree Island fan page was started in February, and has already reached over 1,000 members.

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Asked about the sale of Sangaree Island, which runs lengthwise on the Mira River, Mr. Abbass said there were no exceptions.

"Anything that is not core property in the whole diocese is considered to be sold, yes," said Mr. Abbass. "I don't speak for the final decision makers, but I know there was no exceptions laid out when we said it would be only core properties."

Over the next couple of months, the diocese is expected to begin the process of selling real estate assets.

Mr. Abbass said he expects sale of properties to be done in stages.

Within the next week or so, the diocese legal settlement committee will be sending out letters to all parishioners to explain how much money has been collected.

Mr. Abbass said parishioners will be told how much was collected, before a figure is released to media.

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