Former students file second lawsuit over Grenville school

Published March 1, 2008

Former students of Grenville Christian College have filed a second class-action lawsuit against the school and two former headmasters claiming that they suffered psychological, physical and sexual abuse during their attendance at the now-closed private school; the suit also names the diocese of Ontario as a defendant.

The suit, filed in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Toronto, seeks $200 million in damages “for breach of fiduciary duty, negligence, assault, battery and intentional infliction of mental suffering.” It also seeks an injunction blocking the sale of the school and its property by the St. Lawrence River in eastern Ontario.

The statement of claim alleges that the school was promoted as an Anglican boarding school whose principals had close ties to the Community of Jesus, an organization that has been labelled as a cult by the U.S. media.

It also states that the diocese of Ontario was responsible for the Anglican clergy at the school and was aware of the school’s relationship with the Community of Jesus. The diocese was also “aware or should have been aware” that abuses were being committed but it “took no steps” to report them to appropriate authorities or parents, the statement said.

The claim states that the students were subjected to various forms of abuse from 1973 to 1997.  None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Also named as defendants are Rev. Charles Farnsworth and his wife, Betty, and Rev. Al Haig and his ex-wife, Mary. It identified Mr. Farnsworth as “an ordained Anglican deacon and priest who, together with Father Haig, founded and operated Grenville Christian College from 1969 to 1997.” It adds that both men were ordained and licensed by then-diocesan bishop of Ontario, Henry Hill, “who was also the episcopal visitor of the Community of Jesus.”

(Bishop Hill, who resigned as diocesan bishop in 1981, died in 2006.)

The school, the plaintiffs state, “held itself out as an Anglican private school where children who attended would be taught in the Anglican faith and with Anglican values.”

They add that the diocese “regularly held meetings and workshops” at the school and participated in ceremonies, including the consecration of a new Anglican chapel in 1994 by four bishops “at which time members and ‘clergy’ of the Community of Jesus were present.”

Among the suit’s allegations of abuse were that students were forced to participate in exorcisms, publicly humiliated and called derogatory names, confronted and verbally abused for perceived homosexuality, subjected to sleep deprivation as a form of punishment and subjected to inappropriate sexual comments and touching.

The diocese of Ontario declined to comment on the lawsuit.

When allegations of abuse first surfaced last August, the diocesan bishop of Ontario, George Bruce, and Canon Geoff Jackson, chair of the school’s board of directors, denied that the Anglican church had any connection to the school. But after receiving a number of written complaints from former Grenville students, the diocese launched an investigation into allegations of abuse. That investigation was suspended in October after former students of the school filed a $1-billion class action lawsuit against the school, the Anglican Church of Canada, Mr. Farnsworth and Mr. Haig, and the Community of Jesus.


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