University ignored complaints about disgraced Ottawa doctor in 1990s, $500M class action alleges
Allegations of misconduct by disgraced Ottawa doctor Vincent Nadon were brought to the University of Ottawa "in or about" 1995 and were ignored, according to two sworn affidavits by former patients included in a class-action lawsuit against Nadon, the school, the on-campus clinics where he worked and company that managed them.
According to court documents, both women, who are identified by initials A.M.C and C.E.G., and who know each other through a family member, allege Nadon sexually assaulted them at the University of Ottawa Health Services (UOHS) clinic on campus in the 1990s.
"I specifically remember the look in his eyes," said A.M.C in a phone interview. "It was almost like he was enjoying what he was doing. And I just thought that was not right."
A.M.C. says she and C.E.G. met with a woman who identified herself as a counsellor in her office on campus. Later, A.M.C. says, she received a letter from the woman.
"The letter was on University of Ottawa letterhead and it basically said that no further investigation would be conducted," she recalled. "It said Dr. Nadon apologizes if he made me feel uncomfortable during that examination.
"For two women to have come forward and shared that very awful experience…we put our trust really in the school to provide help for us and in the end it's obvious that they didn't do that."
The details are contained within an updated class-action lawsuit that was certified this week and had been amended with damages being sought increasing to $500 million, up from $210 million.
"All I can hope for is justice for myself, I'm doing this for me and so that I can kind of gain some kind of closure and some sort of power back from what happened," said plaintiff Ellina Rabbat. "I also just want the university and the clinic to be held accountable and to know that it's unacceptable."
Nadon pleaded guilty in December 2018 to 14 sexual assault and voyeurism charges relating to 49 victims. He was sentenced to seven years in prison after receiving a one-year credit for time served.
Nadon was granted full parole in July 2021. His lawyer Lawrence Greenspon says his client has taken responsibility for his crimes and will continue to cooperate with the civil proceedings.
The lawsuit alleges "the University of Ottawa failed to take appropriate steps to prevent the improper conduct from occurring again, including requiring the dismissal of Nadon from the UOHS.”
uOttawa did not answer specific questions about when it was informed about the allegations about Nadon or how it handled them.
"The University is aware of this class action lawsuit but since the matter is before the courts, we cannot comment," said media relations manager Isabelle Mailloux-Pulkinghorn in a statement to CTV News Ottawa.
The University of Ottawa, UOHS—which has since changed its name to the ByWard Family Health Team—and the management company are referred to as the "Ottawa defendants" and have filed notices of their intent to defend against the claim.
"As the class action suit is ongoing, we will decline to comment," wrote Christopher Fisher, the ByWard Family Health Team executive director.
The class action also alleges various emotional, physical and psychological harms.
The allegations contained within the lawsuit have not been tested in court. Next steps include publicizing the lawsuit with information for those who may want to join it. Those who want to opt out of the class proceedings have until July 15, 2022.
"The university right from the very beginning from when Dr. Nadon was arrested took the position that the clinic is an independent service provider and that the university doesn't manage it, operate it, or supervise it and that’s absolutely incorrect," said Sean Brown, partner at Flaherty McCarthy LLP.
"He only worked there and for the clinic to say 'well he's not an employee he's an independent contractor and for that reason we can't be held responsible' is just simply not acceptable."
"There needs to be way more resources and way more support options for students… those need to be disclosed very explicitly as soon as a student stepson to campus," said Rabbat, who says she got the runaround from the university after learning of Nadon's plea.
"We're all in it together and hopefully this won't happen to other women," said Rabbat.