September 12, 2014 9:37 am
Updated: September 12, 2014 9:47 am

Lawsuit claims abuse at two Sask. schools for intellectually disabled

Class-action lawsuit filed by Regina lawyer Tony Merchant alleges abuse took place at two Sask. schools for the intellectually disabled.

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PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. – A potential class-action suit against the Saskatchewan government by Regina lawyer Tony Merchant is alleging verbal, physical and sexual abuse occurred at two of the province’s training schools for the intellectually disabled.

The statement of claim names the Saskatchewan Training School in Moose Jaw and the North Park Centre in Prince Albert.

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Merchant told a Prince Albert radio station that “really horrible things” were done to people at the schools, citing allegations by two plaintiffs of physical and sexual assault.

None of the allegations have been proven in court and the government has declined comment on the suit, which has not yet been certified by the court.

The Moose Jaw school opened in 1955 and was renamed the Valley View Center in 1974; the Prince Albert centre closed in 1988.

The schools were designed to train the intellectually disabled for jobs but also provided long-term care.

“They were disadvantaged and, as a result of being disadvantaged, they were sort of prime victims for staff and sometimes for older people in the same institution,” Merchant said.

One of the plaintiffs is a 62-year-old man who says he was a resident at the Saskatchewan Training School for five years when he was a teenager in the 1960s.

He alleges he was physically assaulted by staff, sexually assaulted by an older resident and saw others sexually assaulted.

The other plaintiff, a 59-year-old woman, says she was a resident at the Saskatchewan Training School as a teenager for three years in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

She alleges being physically and sexually assaulted as well as being punished by being put in a small concrete room, naked, with very little food.

Other allegations include that the duration of a resident’s stay was arbitrary and could be increased as a form of punishment, living quarters were unhygenic, there was a lack of bathing, and inadequate supervision lead to physical and sexual assaults.

The suit contends the province is responsible for the abuse and seeks damages for negligence and breach of fiduciary duty.

A hearing was held in Court of Queen’s Bench in August regarding the certification of the suit as a class action.

The judge didn’t certify it, saying more information was needed but he gave more time to gather the pieces.

© 2014 The Canadian Press

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