Lawsuit Creates Media Frenzy for Ottawa Church

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When a lawsuit was filed to recoup costs incurred in a settlement with an abuse survivor, it resulted in a media storm that engulfed Calvin Christian Reformed Church in Ottawa.

In 2005, Calvin CRC asked Royal and Sun Alliance Insurance Company of Canada to make a one-time settlement with a woman who had been sexually exploited at the church during the 1980s while still a minor. Now the company wants to recover its costs by suing the person convicted of the sexual exploitation, Herbert de Ruyter, a former youth pastor at Calvin CRC, now deposed from CRC ministry.

“We have sought to provide a broad range of ongoing support to the survivor and family, including assisting with real costs resulting from the abuse,” said Martin Mudde, the church elder assigned to deal with the technical and legal aspects of this case.

“The insurance company chose, in December of 2005, to file suit against Mr. de Ruyter, seeking to hold him accountable for these costs under a policy condition known as ‘subrogation,’” wrote Mudde in a release to the congregation. “Whether the claim is successful or not will have no financial impact on Calvin CRC. For technical reasons, however, Calvin CRC is also shown as plaintiff, along with the insurance company, on the Statement of Claim.”

Calvin’s pastor, Rev. Ken Gehrels, said that the church is committed to accountability and justice for all parties involved. “We have nothing to hide regarding the sins committed here. We lament them,” he said. “And we are doing all that is humanly possible to ensure this never happens again here.”

“Abuse has real costs in the lives of people,” says Kathy Vandergrift, a member of Calvin CRC who works to raise awareness of abuse and abuse prevention in Classis Eastern Canada. “These costs are often borne by the survivor and the support community. They should be shared by the perpetrator.”

Calvin CRC’s story was featured widely in the media, but Gehrels says—for the sake of the victim—he hopes the attention will soon abate. “We’re looking for private space for the survivor and her family to get on with their lives,” he says.

About the Author

Rachel Boehm Van Harmelen is a writer and consultant specializing in communications for nonprofit organizations. She and her husband, Peter, have four children and live in Fall River, Nova Scotia, where they attend All Nations Christian Reformed Church