Former students of Grenville Christian College filed a class-action lawsuit on Oct. 17 that seeks $1 billion in damages as a result of abuse allegedly suffered at the school and names as defendants the now-closed school, the Anglican Church of Canada, two Anglican priests and the Community of Jesus, a Massachusetts-based organization.
Archdeacon Michael Pollesel, general secretary of General Synod, the church’s national office, said church lawyers are examining the lawsuit. The statement of claim was filed in Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Milton, Ont. on behalf of Tim Blacklock, Mark Vincent and Martin Whyte, three former students. It names Rev. Alistair Haig and Rev. Charles Farnsworth, who served as headmasters.
It claims students were “physically, emotionally and psychologically abused and harassed sexually” at the school, which is located near Brockville, Ont. Students were allegedly beaten with wooden paddles and were harangued for being sinners in middle-of-the-night “light sessions” that included the use of bright lights.
The document also claims that former staff questioned female students about their virginity and called them “whores.” None of the claims have been proven in court. The class action seeks to include former students who attended Grenville between 1970 and 2007.
The claim also says that the Anglican church and the Community of Jesus “financed, operated, managed, supervised and /or controlled” the college. When allegations of abuse first surfaced last August, Bishop George Bruce of the Kingston, Ont.-based diocese of Ontario and Canon Geoff Jackson, chair of the school’s board of directors, denied that the Anglican church had any substantial connection to Grenville.
However, in postings to an online message board, former students noted that Anglican worship was used in the chapel, several headmasters were Anglican clergy and the school was regularly visited by Anglican clergy and bishops.
In November, Bishop Bruce said he had suspended a diocesan investigation into the situation at Grenville, pending the result of a criminal investigation being conducted by the Ontario Provincial Police. “We have to wait on the crown prosecutor,” said Bishop Bruce in an interview at the Oct. 25-30 meeting of the house of bishops.
He briefed his colleagues on the Grenville situation in a closed session. “One thing I have learned is you need to clarify relationships,” he said. “If you have schools in the diocese, clarify the relationship (between church and school). Another is to act quickly; don’t delay when you receive complaints and you need to deal directly with complainants. I have met with the complainants.”
Grenville educated day and boarding students from junior kindergarten through Grade 12.