Hollywood director aims to sue Montreal suburb after allegations of sexual abuse by hockey coach

A Hollywood film director is seeking permission from a Quebec coach to sue a Montreal suburb for allegedly allowing a hockey coach to sexually assault some 50 boys. The man accused of abuse died in 2012, but the proposed lawsuit is seeking punitive damages and more from the municipality for his alleged crimes.

According to a report in the Montreal Gazette, a Hollywood director raised in Montreal is asking a Quebec Superior Court for permission to launch a class-action lawsuit against a suburb of that city after alleging it “turned a blind eye” as a hockey coach employed by the municipality sexually abused him and some 50 other boys.

Matthew Bissonnette, a director of films including Passenger Side and Who Loves the Sun, filed a motion in Quebec Superior Court Friday that accused the Montreal suburb of the city of Westmount of allowing the employee, now deceased, “to regularly and consistently maintain unusual and inappropriately close relationships with the boys he supervised.”

The report notes the court document identifies a John Garland, who died in 2012, as the alleged abuser. Garland worked as Westmount’s director of parks and recreation for nearly a quarter-century (1953-1987) and for more than 30 years coached peewee hockey.

The allegations made Friday by Bissonnette have not been proven in court. The Gazette couldn’t reach Garland’s family for comment, but Garland’s longtime friend, Dave McCrindle of Côte-St-Luc, called the accusations “absolutely false.”

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The Gazette contacted Bissonnette at his Los Angeles home, and the 49-year-old said he began legal proceedings against Westmount to assist other victims and added he knows of three other men who as children were subject to sexual abuse or sexual advances by Garland.

“I’ve been supported by my family, but there are others who aren’t as fortunate as I am,” Bissonnette said. “The city of Westmount must acknowledge what happened and apologize to the victims.”

If the Quebec court allows the case to move forward, the lawsuit would seek $100,000 from Westmount in damages for “psychological and moral injuries incurred” by Bissonnette, in addition to $100,000 in punitive damages as well as financial compensation for others who decided to join the legal action.