Abuse victim sues former priest and diocese

Chris Morrison says he was about 12 years old, his age in this photo from 1983, when Ferris began to abuse him. Photo: Courtesy Chris Morrison
Chris Morrison says he was about 12 years old, his age in this photo from 1983, when Ferris began to abuse him. Photo: Courtesy Chris Morrison
Published April 8, 2014

Chris Morrison, who former priest George Ferris was convicted of sexually abusing in the 1980s, is suing both Ferris and the diocese of Huron for $3.1 million.

Ferris was sentenced in January to five and a half years in prison for sexually assaulting Morrison and two other complainants.

Morrison says he was abused by Ferris from 1983 to 1989, starting when he was about 12 years old and a member of St. James Anglican Church in Paris, Ont., where Ferris was the rector.

Morrison asked that the usual publication ban on the names of victims be lifted in his case. “It’s increasingly not that unusual that people at the juncture of their journey that Mr. Morrison [is on] decide to shake off the shame, the silence, and stand up and be counted and hope that something positive can be generated by the negative that his experience represents,” his lawyer Rob Talach told the Anglican Journal. “I think that’s the reason and rational behind his speaking out.”

In his statement of claim, Morrison lists destructive effects of the abuse, including the loss of his faith; impaired abilities to succeed at school and work and to form relationships; damage to his physical, mental and emotional health; and suicide attempts. In a March press conference in Brantford, Ont., he also spoke of being HIV-positive.

“I’ve handled these cases for over a decade; I’ve only got a handful of clients with HIV status, and I think that’s a pretty significant sequelae to the abuse,” said Talach. People may question how relevant that fact is if Morrison was not exposed to the virus by Ferris, the lawyer acknowledged, but argued it is a consequence of the abuse. “He was left after just over a half decade of abuse with just an absolute self-hating belief that he was worthless…that he was an abomination, and all this arose from what he did and what he was taught by Ferris. And so he engaged in a completely reckless lifestyle of addictions, drug use, promiscuous homosexual sex, and it’s only a matter of time rolling those dices that you are going to come up HIV-positive.”

The diocese is named in the lawsuit for, among other things, failing to protect Morrison from Ferris, an employee of the diocese, and for creating “an opportunity for Ferris to exert power and authority over the Plaintiff.”

Talach noted that the diocese was quick to depose Ferris after he was sentenced, but says questions about how much the diocese knew and could have done to prevent or stop the abuse remain to be answered. He said that Morrison did not disclose the abuse to anyone for decades, until he finally confided in family members about a year before going to police.

There is, however, a record of a complaint being made to the police in Paris, Ont., about a year after the abuse of Morrison ended, he said. “We don’t know the nature of the complaint…we don’t know the origins of it, but we do know that [Ferris] was also the chaplain of the Paris police force at that time, and for whatever reason, either appropriate or inappropriate, no further action was taken by the police.” That report raised questions of whether the police notified the diocese, Talach added, and if so, what action the diocese took.

“To this point, the diocese of Huron has not made any comment on this matter,” the Rev. Keith Nethery, spokesperson for the diocese, told the Journal.

In his statement of defence, Ferris denies that “any behaviour of a sexual nature which could be deemed inappropriate occurred when the Plaintiff was approximately 12 years old.”

Ferris contends that “some limited activity occurred between himself and the Plaintiff on four or five occasions” when Morrison was 17 or 18 and that it was consensual.






Ordained in 1971, Ferris served a number of Ontario parishes including St. Peter’s Oshweken and St. Paul’s Kanyengeh at Six Nations; St. Thomas’, Walkerton; St. Paul’s, Pinkerton; St. Matthew’s, Kingarf; and St. James, Paris, Ont.

In 1991, Ferris left parish ministry and moved to Renison College, at the University of Waterloo, where he served as chaplain, director of alumni and development and director of residences.

In September 2001, he returned to parish ministry as rector of his former parish of St. James.








  • Leigh Anne Williams

    Leigh Anne Williams joined the Anglican Journal in 2008 as a part-time staff writer. She also works as the Canadian correspondent for Publishers Weekly, a New York-based trade magazine for the book publishing. Prior to this, Williams worked as a reporter for the Canadian bureau of TIME Magazine, news editor of Quill & Quire, and a copy editor at The Halifax Herald, The Globe and Mail and The Bay Street Bull.

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