Pleading for more action after what she and others allege has been decades of abuse, a former student at a Christian school in Saskatoon has directly asked Saskatchewan’s education minister to close the school.
Caitlin Erickson was among three former students of Legacy Christian Academy — once known as Christian Center Academy — who met with Education Minister Dustin Duncan and ministry officials on Wednesday.
The meeting included the students’ lawyer, Grant Scharfstein. Erickson is the lead plaintiff in a $25-million class action against Legacy Christian Academy and Mile Two Church.
Erickson said the group provided Duncan and Deputy Minister Donna Johnson with specific examples and evidence of their allegations, and she directly asked Duncan to close the school. He did not commit one way or the other, she said.
“We appreciate them meeting with us, but there is so much that has gone on at that institution. We’re talking about, right now, four decades of abuse victims that have come forward,” Erickson said in an interview.
“I don’t think anybody wants their legacy as the sitting education minister (to be) a fifth decade of abuse victims.”
The ministry confirmed the meeting took place, saying in an email that it was a follow-up to a meeting between former students and an appointed administrator at Legacy Christian Academy.
“While the Ministry of Education has not been named in the lawsuit, it will continue to monitor this situation as it moves through the legal process,” the province said in a statement.
It noted it has implemented administrators at three schools named in the lawsuit, and that is “enhancing the regulations and oversight of the schools, and fully cooperating with the Advocate for Children and Youth in its investigation into the oversight of Independent Schools in Saskatchewan.”
Erickson said the conversation on Wednesday was one-sided, with former students and their lawyer doing most of the talking.
“They did a lot of listening, which we appreciate, but having that much information about this situation, we were hoping for a little more from them as far as what they’re going to do to prevent this happening in the future,” she said.
Scharfstein said the students have been waiting and called it a step in the right direction.
“I have no doubt (Duncan) heard what we had to say. Can I tell what will come of it? I can’t. I don’t know. But they certainly know what the issues are,” he said.
The former students’ claims are not political, since the “total failure of this ministry” occurred under the NDP, Conservative and Saskatchewan Party governments, Scharfstein added.
“We wanted to make it clear there was a total failure to protect these children’s interests, both academically, based on the curricula being taught and who was teaching, as well as the abuse issues that arose in these schools,” he said.
Saskatoon police have confirmed that a criminal investigation into the allegations is taking place.
Legacy Christian Academy and its parent organization, Mile Two Church, did not respond to a request for comment.
The class-action lawsuit alleges Legacy Christian Academy, formerly known as Christian Center Academy, and Mile Two Church perpetrated and allowed the spanking of students, fondling of minors by church staff and other physical, psychological and sexual abuse.
It names 21 people as defendants, including former teachers and administrators. The allegations have not been tested in court.
As of Friday, no statements of defense have been filed.
The ministry appointed administrators in late August to oversee Legacy Christian Academy, Grace Christian School in Saskatoon and Regent Christian Academy in Prince Albert.
Duncan revoked Grace Christian School’s permission to operate after the school’s director refused to co-operate with the administrator.
Legacy Christian Academy is classified as a “qualified independent school” operated and owned by a non-profit organization, but receives direct provincial funding. It now has to follow the provincial curriculum, but can offer locally developed courses at the secondary level approved by the education ministry.
In 2020-2021 it received $736,000 in provincial funds.
— With StarPhoenix files from Zak Vescera
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