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Students of the former Legacy Christian Academy asked the Minister of Education to close the schoolSEDI News

Former students at a private Saskatoon Christian school facing dozens of abuse allegations told Saskatchewan’s education minister the school should be closed.

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“We’re talking about four decades of abuse victims, and it takes a long time for people to come forward. So when they come forward, they need to be heard and validated,” former Christian Center Academy student Caitlin Erickson said during a nearly two-hour meeting with Education Minister Dustin Duncan.

Erickson was one of three former students in a private meeting with Duncan and his staff Wednesday in downtown Saskatoon.

Duncan’s attorney, Grant Scharfstein, was also there for the meeting, which Duncan requested after alumni continued to meet with the minister during the summer months.

“We are simply letting them know that the Ministry of Education has failed to properly monitor any of these (qualified independent) schools for 40 years. It’s been a total failure, and it’s not political,” Scharfstein said.

“It’s not just Sask. Party or Conservatives or NDP. All those parties were in power when this failure by the ministry occurred. It is systemic,” he said.

Dozens of students have come forward claiming they were subjected to violence, sexual, physical and psychological abuse, as well as homophobic slurs and other abuse.

More than 30 of the former students have filed a $25-million lawsuit against nearly two dozen officials at the school and affiliated Saskatoon Christian Center Church. Both institutions have since changed their names to Legacy Christian Academy and Mile to Church.

The allegations have so far led to an investigation by the Saskatchewan Children’s Advocate. An independent administrator has also been appointed by the province to run the school this fall.

That’s not nearly enough for students who file lawsuits.

“I said you need to close the school,” Erickson said Wednesday, repeating what he told Duncan. “I am asking you to close the school. And he answered with silence. And you know, no answer was really given.

If the school doesn’t close, Erickson and other students say they want the province to suspend or eliminate at least $700,000 in annual taxpayer funding the school receives.

“We made many requests. I can’t tell you what will come of it, but I can tell you that they know about the issues they know about,” Scharfstein said. “They have no excuse that we didn’t know this was happening.”

The ministry released this statement after the meeting:

“Following a meeting between alumni and appointed administrators at Legacy Christian Academy, the Minister of Education, Dustin Duncan, met yesterday with several alumni to hear and share their experiences and historical allegations against Christian Center Academy, now known as Legacy Christian Academy.

While the Ministry of Education has not been named in the lawsuit, it will continue to monitor the situation as it moves through the legal process. The Saskatchewan government has already taken significant steps to ensure the safety of all children in all Saskatchewan schools, including appointing administrators at the three schools named in the lawsuit, increasing school regulations and oversight, and with an advocate for children and youth investigating the oversight of independent schools in Saskatchewan. Full cooperation.”

More students join the lawsuit

Since the students came forward with the allegations, Scharfstein said 75 former students have contacted his office wanting to join the class action lawsuit. He expects many more to come forward as the lawsuit moves through the courts.

Scharfstein said the province listened to the students, and he has no doubt that eventually there will be some kind of action, but he said Erickson’s final comments to Duncan may have had the most impact.

“There have been four decades of abuse in schools and we don’t want a fifth under your watch,” Scharfstein said, quoting Erickson’s parting words.

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