SASKATOON — The opposition New Democrats were in Saskatoon Thursday as they continued to hammer the government on their handling of abuse allegations at Legacy Christian Academy in Saskatoon.
NDP Leader Carla Beck and Human Rights Critic Meara Conway were in Saskatoon outside the offices of the Saskatchewan Advocate for Children and Youth, alongside Caitlin Erickson and Stephanie Hutchinson, two former students at the academy. There, the Opposition Leader once again slammed the government for their response to the abuse allegations.
“We’re talking about violent discipline, allegations of sexual abuse, exorcisms — things that should have immediately, immediately triggered an investigation the second it landed on the ninister's desk," Beck said. "We have teachers who have been named in a statement of claim, a criminal investigation, and 30, now 40 and growing, students who have come forward.”
In a news release, the NDP confirmed Beck had written a letter from Beck to the Saskatchewan Advocate for Children and Youth, asking for a special investigation into the specific occurrences at Christian Centre Academy and an assessment of whether the Ministry of Education has effective processes in place to adequately oversee the Qualified Independent School category.
“I think it’s fair to ask who is the Sask. Party protecting,” Beck told reporters in Saskatoon.
Legacy Christian Academy is currently subject to a class action lawsuit from former students alleging abuse at the institution. In response, Education Minister Dustin Duncan recently brought in regulatory changes for more oversight at Qualified Independent Schools this coming school year, including a supervisor for Legacy Christian Academy and increased inspections.
Hutchinson told reporters the response was “baffling and disappointing for us, knowing the ministry has failed to enforce these regulations for years.”
She accused the schools of being “run by unqualified individuals” and said they have been receiving public funds for years.
“It is astonishing to us as survivors to even have to have this conference today,” Hutchinson said. “Child abuse is not a partisan issue.”
“It is a public safety issue,” said Erickson, who demanded a meeting between the students and Education Minister Duncan. She said upwards of 40 former students have come forward with allegations including from as recently as 2018-19, and said there are 18 others who are preparing their statements and getting ready to go to police.
“We would like to see some action at this point because this is an issue that should bother everybody in the province of Saskatchewan.”
Conway criticized the government for their response to the allegations.
“Caitlin (Erickson) did her duty, she brought these allegations and her concerns to the minister of Education and there was no action on their part.”
She particularly pointed to the severity of the abuse allegations.
“We are talking about students being beaten. We are talking about allegations of sexual violence. We are talking about intolerant, discriminatory, abusive responses to questions of students’ sexuality,” said Conway.
“The moment that safety was called into question, the Minister of Education had a duty to act, period. And it’s clear the Sask. Party government failed in that regard.”
Conway also criticized the government for allowing the teachers facing the abuse allegations to return to schools this fall.
“Teachers who are named in the lawsuit who are alleged to have perpetuated these abuses will be back in the classroom this fall, and that is unacceptable.”