Saskatchewan Government added to $25 million church-run school lawsuit
Saskatchewan Government added to $25 million church-run school lawsuit
The Saskatchewan Government, Saskatoon councillor Randy Donauer and others are labelled defendants and added to a $25 million class action lawsuit on Tuesday in relation to abuse allegations at a church-run school.
More than 40 former students have come forward with abuse allegations during their time at Christian Centre Academy, now known as Legacy Christian Academy (LCA).
The allegations have not been tested in court.
The lawsuit, launched back in August alleges that Mile Two Church Inc., physically and sexually abused students prior to 2005.
The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Grant Scharfstein, says the Government of Saskatchewan has legal duties to support the growth and safety of students.
“I want to make it clear that this amended statement of claim is not directed towards any political party. It’s not political. The alleged failures of the ministry have occurred since 1982 under the Conservative Party, the Saskatchewan Party, and the NDP. This is not political, it’s a total failure of the institution,” Scharfstein said.
“The Government of Saskatchewan, through the Ministry (hereafter referred to as the “Ministry”), is charged with the duty to ensure that all Saskatchewan children enrolled in a school (including the School) authorized to operate in Saskatchewan, from pre-kindergarten to grade 12 inclusive, are safe, healthy, properly educated and able to develop to their full potential,” the amended statement of claim read.
The statement of claim alleges that Caitlin Erickson, Coy Nolin, and other members of the church or students received psychological, mental, emotional, and spiritual harm, as well as physical or sexual assault or battery from the named defendants.
“A worker of the Church, induced female minor adherents and congregants of the Church to, during Sunday School, to go with him to the bathroom where he would put candy on his penis and have the girl take the candy with her hands or mouth. On some occasions he cut the pockets out of his pants, and told the girls to reach into the pockets and ‘see what surprise I have for you.’” the document claimed.
The document describes other times the plaintiffs alleged resulted in physical or sexual assault.
The document quotes alleged church literature.
“Sometimes spankings will leave marks on the child. If some liberal were to hear this, they’d immediately charge us with advocating child-beating. Child beating is when an enraged parent who doesn’t love his child begins to beat up on him/her. Is that what I am advocating? Is that what the Bible tells us to do? What is the purpose in spanking our children? Primarily, it is to teach them that sin is wrong, that sin is always punished, and that sin always hurts them more than anyone else. Therefore, if we’re going to make a believer out of them, we’re going to need to ensure that the punishment is severe enough to make a lasting impression. Occasionally, proper discipline may leave welts,” reads one of the examples given by the document.
The updated amendment claims the Ministry of Education was aware that some teachers in the school were not certified and chose not to intervene. The document also alleges the ministry did not inspect LCA as outlined in legislation and says it owes the former students of LCA a “duty of care.” It goes on to list other inactions and failures that it claims the ministry is responsible for.
The document also noted that Nolin claimed “when he was 16 years old, Randy Donauer accused him of gossiping and making jokes about fellow camp counsellors dating, and Coy was paddled by Randy Donauer.”
Erickson noted that she expected the Government of Saskatchewan to make meaningful change when the allegations first came out, adding that they never expected to name the government in the lawsuit.
“We thought as former students, and anticipated when we reached out to the government with our very, very awful stories of abuse, and our experiences from dozens of former students that those stories would be heard and meaningful action would have been taken,” Erickson claimed.
She claimed that if former students didn’t come forward, many of the defendants would still be working with children today.
“It is not due to the government’s safety nets or policies that these people are not in those schools right now. It is due to the brave students who have come forward to share their stories and shine a light on what had been going on for decades,” Erickson alleged.
The Saskatchewan NDP made calls for government-led investigations into church led private schools, as well as funding freezes for LCA back in August when the claims first came out.
“Saskatchewan NDP want to continue our call to immediately freeze funding to this school and as well to ensure anybody included in these allegations is not working with children and youth in Saskatchewan,” NDP Critic Matt Love said back in August.
Administrators were appointed by the Sask Party government to three schools in response to the statement of claim, with LCA being one of the three schools selected.
The Ministry of Education has also noted that it has increased the number of visits to qualified independent schools since the allegations came out.
Erickson brought forward a biology textbook from LCA in November to the Saskatchewan legislature that suggests that people and dinosaurs co-existed.
“Biblical and scientific evidence tend to support the idea that men and dinosaurs existed at the same time,” the textbook read.
“The recurring ‘dragon’ theme in folklore helps support the idea of the dinosaur’s coexistence with man.”
Erickson claimed there were other issues within the curriculum for LCA, alleging that it had racist and sexist content.
Minister of Education Dustin Duncan said that the ministry gives out recommendations for resources to be used by qualified independent schools, noting that it’s up to parents to decide where their kids attend school.
“We give them a choice, and if they don’t want that for their children they don’t have to be there. Nobody is forced to attend these schools,” Duncan said.
A few days later, Erickson was forced to relocate her family after a fire in her home.
Erickson believed that she had been targeted for speaking out about abuse she says she experienced at LCA, adding that she’s been a victim of harassment since the day the lawsuit was announced.
A bible verse was spray-painted on her home before the fire, and Erickson said she received the same verse from an anonymous email threatening her.
The verse was Hebrews 12:29, which states “For our God is a consuming fire”.
“I had received an email and it was quoting the scripture verse that was spray-painted on my house and I received a note on my deck and had my cameras ripped off,” Erickson said back in November.
She said after the vandalism they had gone back to the house briefly and heard someone in the house.
Erickson said she left immediately and called the police, who later reported that her home was on fire.
A statement came out on November 25 from the United Church of Canada in Saskatchewan decrying the fire, as well as how LCA has been treating the lawsuit.
“We know that the survivors are waiting for possible charges. Past failures to prosecute church perpetrators of violence in residential schools, and other settings, contributes to the continued appearance of the church’s impunity. We reject such impunity,” the church’s statement read.
“We denounce the utter abuse of scripture we have witnessed in the campaign of harassment against Ms. Erickson. To use Hebrews 12:29 as a threat in the course of setting fire to someone’s home is heinous, and has absolutely nothing to do with the tenets of the Christian faith.”
Mile Two Church Inc. responded to the initial allegations with a statement.
“The community of Mile Two Church is deeply troubled by the details of abuse reported by former students in the press. At this time, Mile Two Church has not seen the Statement of Claim, which is expected to contain the details reported in the press. We have to trust that the legal system will provide clarity around who did what to whom, and when, and will ultimately hold those responsible to account for their actions. We will thoroughly examine the Statement of Claim once we receive it. Until we have reviewed the Statement of Claim with legal counsel, no other public comments will be made at this time,” read the statement.
Global News reached out to Donauer and the Government of Saskatchewan for comment.
The provincial government responded Tuesday saying it would not comment, as the matter is before the courts. Donauer did not respond by publishing time.