The Calgary Stampede has agreed to pay $9.5 million in damages to complainants in a class-action lawsuit that alleged the organization allowed a performance school staffer to sexually abuse young boys.
The agreement is related to the case of Phillip Heerema.
Heerema received a 10-year prison sentence in 2018 after pleading guilty to charges including sexual assault, sexual exploitation, child pornography and luring.
Heerema admitted he used his position with the Young Canadians School of Performing Arts — which performs each year in the Calgary Stampede Grandstand Show — to lure and groom six boys into sexual relationships between 2005 and 2014, as well as in 1992.
The school is operated by the Calgary Stampede Foundation.
Last fall, the Stampede admitted to negligence and breach of duty and agreed to pay all damages, but the final number was not resolved.
Lawyer Cory Ryan, who represents the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede and the Calgary Stampede Foundation, said Tuesday the amount has been tentatively settled.
“The representative plaintiff and Stampede defendants have reached a tentative resolution on damages and costs, subject to court approval and the establishment of an approved claims and distribution process,” said Ryan in a statement.
“The resolution includes a commitment by the Stampede defendants’ insurers to pay an all-inclusive amount of $9.5 million to settle the claims of class members.”
Ryan said the deal also includes a commitment to additional measures and programs.
His statement said the resolution was agreed to following extensive settlement discussions, with the help of two Court of King’s Bench judges.
“If formally implemented, it is the parties’ hope that the resolution will provide impacted class members with a measure of closure and aid in the healing process,” he said.
About three dozen plaintiffs initially joined the suit.
One of the plaintiffs, who is not the original complainant nor part of the original class, said while this is good news it’s still a tentative settlement that has not been approved by the courts. The plaintiff cannot be identified because they are a victim of sexual assault.
The plaintiff told Global News in a statement Tuesday that the lawsuit has been a long road for class members and said the Calgary Stampede chose to drag it out until Heereema is out of prison.
The plaintiff said they expect the class action lawsuit to grow in the next several months.
–With files from Paula Tran, Global News.