Education minister welcomes investigation into school abuse claims, will meet with alleged victims

Saskatchewan’s children’s advocate announced her investigation into allegations of abuse involving three Saskatchewan independent schools Tuesday – an investigation which Saskatchewan’s education minister said he welcomes.

Dustin Duncan said the ministry will be fully co-operating with advocate Lisa Broda over the course of her investigation. “We will also be directing independent schools that will be subject to her work that they are to fully co-operate with her work as well,” said Duncan.

While some were calling for the investigation and the Saskatchewan NDP wrote a letter to Broda’s office asking for it, the government did not request that her office get involved. Duncan said that’s because the advocate’s work will take between six and 10 months, or even longer, and the government wanted to move faster.

“We welcome the work of the office,” said Duncan. “We also have a regulatory role, and we’ve enhanced that role and feel like those are the appropriate steps that we need to take.”

The minister recently imposed oversight measures which allowed for the ministry to appoint administrators to independent schools, increased the frequency of unannounced visits, and allowed for schools to be put on probation. One of the schools, Grace Christian School, refused to co-operate with its new administrator, which resulted in the revocation of its certificate of registration.

“At this point, I’m comfortable with the steps that the government has taken, that the province has taken,” Duncan said.

“This has already resulted in one of the schools being closed, so we’ve taken significant action. And if we have to, I’m prepared to do more.”

The minister said he believes it’s too soon to say what might come out of the advocate’s investigation.

Duncan said most of the complaints seem to be historical in nature, although he did admit the ministry got a complaint about an individual accused of abuse in 2016 and then received a second complaint about that person. He said in that case the government’s legal counsel advised the government to direct that person to the police, which it did.

Going forward, Duncan said it’s safe to say independent schools should expect more than the minimum of three unannounced inspections this year. He said there will be additional oversight at all the schools.

“This is top of mind for a lot of people. We want to ensure – especially with school starting this week – that students are in a safe place, that students are safe in the school that they’re attending, that the government is providing oversight, including additional oversight to qualified independent schools, (and ) that schools can start for these schools as it would any other year,” the minister explained.

Duncan said Saskatoon police officers have told the ministry it would be notified of any concerns around student safety that arise through police investigations.

“The fact that they didn’t notify the Ministry of Education gives me comfort that students are in a safe environment, despite serious allegations and the fact that there’s a criminal investigation, and the fact that the government has taken steps to provide additional oversight, said Duncan.

Meeting with students

On Monday, Premier Scott Moe said he expects the education minister should and will meet with alleged victims of abuse.

Duncan said he will meet with the alleged victims at some point this fall, but his office has not made arrangements yet. Duncan said his office has been focused on other things like changing regulations, appointing administrators, and making sure kids are safe attending the schools now.

“There’s been lots that has been happening on this file over the past number of weeks. At the appropriate time, I’ll be making time to meet with the students,” he said.
Duncan also said he wants to hear from the former students directly.

“I can’t change the past, but I’d like to hear from them and hear what their experience was,” said Duncan.

Many of the former students have also launched a class-action lawsuit, seeking significant damages from former staff members.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top button
KQ Education Group