The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) has launched a criminal investigation into allegations of abuse of students at Grenville Christian College, a recently-closed private school in Brockville, in eastern Ontario.
The allegations of psychological and physical abuse, some dating back to the 1970s, involve staff and two priests from the diocese of Ontario.
The diocese earlier launched its own investigation as the priests were under the jurisdiction of the diocesan bishop, but it has stated that Grenville was not an Anglican school. But former students dispute the diocese’s claim, citing the frequent attendance at school ceremonies by senior Anglican dignitaries, the former headmasters who were Anglican clergy and compulsory Anglican worship in the school’s chapel.
George Bruce, the diocesan bishop, has met with former students who have filed formal complaints to the diocese to discuss the specifics of their allegations. He has also met the priests accused of wrongdoing to hear their response to the allegations.
The diocese declined to name the priests under investigation. “We continue to do our utmost to respect the dignity and confidentiality of those involved, both complainants and those who have had complaints made against them,” said Archdeacon Wayne Varley, diocesan executive officer.
Former students have granted the OPP access to their Facebook Internet site, where students have described being subjected to cult-like practices that included being woken in the middle of the night and put into a dark room with bright lights, where they were taunted for being sinners.
Meanwhile, the former bishop of Ontario, Peter Mason, has denied that he knew from former staff members about alleged cultish practices at Grenville.
“He (Bishop Mason) was asked as a pastor to give some pastoral help and support to staff who were having internal problems. He was asked as an outsider for some help in sorting it out,” said Archbishop Caleb Lawrence, bishop of Moosonee and metropolitan (provincial archbishop) of Ontario, who recently met with bishops Mason and Bruce and the primate, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, to discuss the Grenville situation. “He denies adamantly having any intimation that this involved students, and particularly, abuse of students in school.” (Bishop Mason declined to comment to the Anglican Journal, citing the ongoing police investigation.)
Archbishop Lawrence said that although he has no jurisdiction in any diocese other than his own, he met with bishops Bruce and Mason because of his pastoral responsibilities as metropolitan. “My canonical role is to provide pastoral care to bishops and that involves checking to see if they followed correct procedures, if they have acted openly and clearly with the situation, and to have concerns with regards to their own self-care and well-being.”
He said that Bishop Bruce “has been extraordinarily diligent in responding to any allegations or complaints.”
Archbishop Lawrence also said that he has been clarifying his role as metropolitan to a few students who have referred their complaints about Grenville directly to his office.