Halifax man who worked with youth charged with sexual assault involving minor

Click to play video: 'Parent concerned after Cole Harbour daycare worker faces sex-related charges'
Parent concerned after Cole Harbour daycare worker faces sex-related charges
A Cole Harbour mother is speaking out after a local daycare worker was recently charged with sex-related charges involving a child. Graeme Benjamin has more – Jun 16, 2022

A male employee with a non-profit organization for youth has been charged with sexual assault.

Marisa DeMarco and the 28-year-old man accused co-founded the Community Connexions Network Nova Scotia in 2018. The nonprofit hosts before-and-after-school and summer programs for children with activities and field trips.

DeMarco said the man later took the role of Volunteer Co-CEO and led a group of 12 to 14 staff members involved with children’s recreational programs.

DeMarco told Global News she was made aware the man was charged with sexual assault involving a minor this week.

“Like so many, we feel frustration, turmoil and grief,” she said in a Thursday email. “Due to the seriousness of the allegations, he is no longer involved with Connexions in any way.”

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Nicole Whyatt, a mom whose daughter was enrolled in the Connexions after-school program, said she was informed the man would be removed from programs in a vague notice last week. More information on the sexual assault allegations was provided the next day.

Whyatt said a meeting was held on Tuesday, after which she decided to pull both of her children from the program.

“I think, where I’m sitting right now, is that my biggest concern is I would really like a thorough investigation,” she said Thursday. “We as parents have to protect our kids, but we are asked to trust in systems that are built to do that as well.”

DeMarco said there are no ongoing police investigations related directly to Connexions. The RCMP have not provided information about the setting involved.

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But Whyatt said the man accused has been prominent in the Cole Harbour community for years.

“I need to know who dropped the ball and how he was allowed to instill himself so deeply into our community, the way that he did for so long,” Whyatt said.

Having to talk to her young daughters about the situation hasn’t been easy, she said. Her oldest is eight years old.

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“I’ve tried to be as clear with her as I can without being explicit. She’s heartbroken, she’s confused,” said Whyatt.

“She’s trying to process what I mean by unsafe… She had fun at Connexions, she got to go and play with her friends and she doesn’t fully understand why she can’t go back there.”

DeMarco will continue to regularly communicate with parents of children who are and were registered in Connexions programs.

“We will ensure that all necessary steps are taken to help protect the children’s safety and we will cooperate fully with authorities throughout any investigation,” her email read.

DeMarco said anyone with specific concerns should reach out to police.

She also co-owned a laser tag business in Dartmouth with the man charged, called Party On People. Though DeMarco said the accused was listed as a co-owner, he had not “actively participated in business operations” since 2019. In addition, Party On People was closed for a total of 22 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are aware of the allegations being made and of how difficult this is for everyone affected and for the community as a whole,” she wrote. “In response to the serious nature of these allegations I am in the process of legally removing him from all business affiliations with Party On People.”

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RCMP said on Wednesday that an investigation was launched into 28-year-old Halifax resident Ryan Rutledge, after a May 30 complaint in relation to a youth known to Rutledge.

On Tuesday, he was charged with sexual assault, sexual interference and invitation to sexual touching, in an incident that occurred in Cole Harbour.

Rutledge was arrested and released on conditions, though RCMP did not confirm what the conditions are.

RCMP Cpl. Guillaume Tremblay said on Thursday to protect the identity of the victim, the RCMP cannot discuss Rutledge’s work environment.

Allegations against the man charged have not been proven in court. He is set to appear in court on July 26.

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