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Former students of Saskatoon school allege sexual abuse in $25M legal claim

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Warning: Some details in this article may be disturbing to readers

Former students are working to bring a class action lawsuit against the Saskatoon school where they allege they suffered physical and sexual abuse.

Friends, family and other past students of Saskatoon Christian Centre Academy — now called Legacy Christian Academy (LCA) — gathered outside a Saskatoon courthouse on Tuesday to announce the legal action.

“I am so thankful for so many of my peers that have found the courage to tell their stories so that we may move forward to a place of healing,” Caitlin Erickson said.

"The staff tried to physically and psychologically break me, despite their best efforts they were not successful, and that's why I'm able to stand here today.”

Erickson attended the school from 1992 to 2005. She and other students have recently come forward alleging that staff routinely paddled students and engaged in "controlling and abusive" behaviour — including a "gay exorcism."

Saskatoon Police Service has confirmed an investigation into historical allegations involving the school has been turned over to Crown prosecutors.

Mile Two Church, which operates the school, is named as a defendant in the claim.

"The community of Mile Two Church is deeply troubled by the details of abuse reported by former students in the press," the church said in a statement.

"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."

The statement of claim, which lists Erickson and Coy Nolin as plaintiffs, expands the scope of the allegations levelled against the school to include claims of sexual abuse.

The statement of claim alleges a church worker would invite girls into a bathroom where "he would put candy on his penis and have the girl take the candy with her hands or mouth."

The court document also alleges the worker would sometimes cut the pockets out of his pants and invited girls to reach into his pockets by saying "see what surprise I have for you."

The statement of claim further outlines the students' allegations of corporal discipline using a wood paddle at various times.

“Six paddles were administered on each of two or three occasions during (Erickson’s) grade 12 year,” the statement of claim says.

The statement of claim also alleges the school sold paddles and kept them "in plain view as intimidation and threat of future battery with said paddles."

Erickson also claims she was subject to psychological, mental, emotional and spiritual harm during her time at the school.

“The alleged abuses are of course horrific,” the former student’s lawyer Grant Scharfstein said.

“This church and school exhibit all the hallmarks of what we often think of as a cult. They were involved in every aspect of their members’ lives.”

The plaintiffs claim the alleged abuses were carried out “as a pattern of pervasive, systematic abuse of vulnerable children."

In the statement of claim, Erickson and Nolin say they did not bring these issues up earlier because of their physical, mental or psychological condition.

There were 21 defendants listed in the statement of claim. The students are looking for more than $25 million in compensation.

"The courts are quite limited in what (they) can do. It can work compensation. It can make a few orders. The minister actually has a lot of power, and that's why we're calling out the minister today to do something, and do it today,” Scharfstein said.

The Ministry of Education has said it won’t make any decision about funding to the school until after a police investigation has concluded.

The court still needs to certify the class action before it can move forward.

The church has not yet filed a statement of defence. 

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