Saskatchewan Children and Youth Advocate launches investigation into independent schools after abuse allegations

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Children’s advocate investigating independent schools
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The Saskatchewan Advocate for Children and Youth has officially launched a full investigation into the services and oversight of registered independent schools.

Earlier in August, the Saskatchewan NDP submitted a formal request for an investigation into the provincial government’s response to the Legacy Christian Academy (LCA) abuse allegations.

In a press release Tuesday, the advocate stated she has reviewed all the information received from the Ministry of Education to date and has determined a full investigation is required.

“The magnitude of the allegations of abuse and the number of concerns raised in both the public forum and identified in my office’s review of the information gathered over the past few weeks, has informed my decision to conduct full independent investigation,” said Lisa Broda.

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While the advocate’s legislation does not extend jurisdiction to investigate criminal matters, the advocate said the individuals impacted by these allegations have taken all the avenues available to have these critical matters addressed.

“I admire the strength and courage of those who have brought these matters forward in advocating for themselves and also for the children and youth currently served by the education system,” said Broda.

“My legislative mandate is to ensure all services to children are in accordance with the legislation, regulations, and policies through which they are provided – and that those documents and services respect, protect and fulfill the rights of children.”

One member who is happy to see the advocate investigation take place is Caitlin Erickson, a former student at Legacy Academy and one of the members to launch the class action lawsuit.

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan independent schools need more oversight: advocate'
Saskatchewan independent schools need more oversight: advocate

“If the Advocate digs into stuff that’s going on and some of the concerns that have been raised by students, I think they will get a full picture of things that were going on and hopefully be able to make some suggestions on a way forward that is more conducive for students,” Erickson said.

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Erickson, who said she had been abused during her time at the school, feels there have been gaps in the system for a long time, and an investigation needs to help close those.

“It’s been a very long time of essentially a policy of don’t ask don’t tell with these schools,” Erickson said. “There needs to be way more oversight than what there is. Having a 15-minute check-in a couple times a year is not being responsible.”

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The investigation will include an examination of the historical and current services provided to children and youth within various categories of registered independent schools in Saskatchewan. As well, the investigation will focus on the oversight and accountability mechanisms established and implemented by the Ministry of Education.

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Just hours after the announcement of the investigation, Education Minister Dustin Duncan responded to the situation, and said he welcomes the advocate’s investigation.

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“The ministry of education will be fully cooperating with the work of the child advocate and we will also be directing independent schools that will be subject to her work that they are to fully cooperate with her as well,” Duncan said.

Recently, the Ministry of Education appointed three administrators to Legacy Christian Academy and two other schools linked to it. Duncan said the ministry staff will now inspect the two remaining schools with administrators at least 10 times this school year, instead of the historical three meetings.

Duncan expects other independent schools will also be subject to more frequent inspections throughout the year.

We want to ensure, especially with school starting this week, that students are in a safe place, that students are safe in the schools that they’re attending, and that the government is providing oversight,” Duncan said.

Under the authority of The Advocate for Children and Youth Act, the advocate can make recommendations to the Ministry and agencies of the government to strengthen service delivery to children and youth in registered independent schools.

“It is critical that young people are being educated in environments that respect their inherent dignity and their full range of human rights,” said Broda.

“Although there are several processes currently underway examining the issues raised by these allegations from various perspectives, an independent, child-rights lens is required to ensure the education system in Saskatchewan – in all its forms – is operating with the best interests of the child at its centre.”


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