The chorus of former Saskatoon Christian School students is growing with tales of abuse and humiliation.
Among them are the children and grandchildren of high-ranking officials from the Christian Center Academy and the neighboring Saskatoon Christian Center Church.
The school is now known as Heritage Christian Academy. The church also underwent a name change to Mile Two Church.
“This place has left a long trail of abused and traumatized people. I’m glad we got out of this cult community,” said Garrison Davis, 19, grandson of the church’s original pastor.
Saskatoon Police are urging other alleged victims and their supporters to contact them.
“As police, we understand that the decision to file a formal report is a personal one, especially when it comes to interpersonal violence,” the statement, emailed to CBC News on Thursday, said. “We … call on those with information believed to be relevant to the investigation to come forward and support those who wish to make an official report in doing so.”
Earlier this week, a CBC News investigation revealed that 18 former students filed criminal complaints with Saskatoon police. Since this story was published, CBC News has spoken to a dozen more. Many say they will go to the police.
CBC is investigating
About exorcism, cruel discipline and other abuses alleged by former students of private Sask. Christian school
The new allegations cover a wider period of time than the original complaints.
Davis said he had been rowed multiple times back in the spring of 2012, and it was common at the time to hear of similar attacks on other students.
“It’s not like being hit by someone’s hand. This is a specially made rigid wooden spatula. She will leave some pretty bad bruises and be sore for days after that,” he said.
The school says it has apologized
The Supreme Court of Canada has declared all corporal punishment by school authorities illegal since January 2004. Legal experts have said that any rowing or other force used after this time would clearly constitute a criminal assault, and private schools are subject to the same laws.
School officials repeatedly denied requests for interviews, but issued two written statements.
In the first, they said that there had been no rowing for “more than two decades”. In the second, released this week, they say they have “issued numerous public and private apologies” to students over the years.
But students say rowing and other abuse have been widespread in the years since the Supreme Court decision, and no student is aware of any apologies.
The CBC requested letters, emails, videos or other evidence of previous apologies from officials, but no one from the church or school responded.
“A Trauma I’m Still Dealing With”
The students say the lies must stop and they want justice.
“It’s a trauma that I’m still dealing with, [but] I want to stand up and talk about it,” said Kieran Friesen, whose estranged father was a school principal when he was a student.
Friesen, who is transgender, said he was ashamed and did not understand his identity throughout his time at the school. After graduating, he engaged in self-mutilation and contemplated suicide due to overwhelming guilt.
“I always knew something was wrong. I couldn’t talk about it because we were always told that anything else was wrong. I was in constant fear. I couldn’t be myself,” said Friesen, who now lives in Edmonton with his partner and two children.
Freisen and others say they were inspired to finally go public when they saw interviews with fellow students. They said it showed them that they were not alone.
“I saw this story this week and decided I needed to file a police report and I needed to say something,” said Gillian Kudrick, who said she was rowed at least 10 times before she dropped out of school. in 2005 at the age of 15 due to deteriorating mental health.
Her brother, Christian Kudrik, said that he was expelled in 7th grade in 2005 due to difficulties caused by an undiagnosed learning disability. Kudryk said he and others were forced to kneel on the school stairs with their arms outstretched straight ahead as the teacher placed the books in their hands. When their muscles failed and the books fell, they were forced to pick them up, return them to the teacher, and do this twice more.
“These people left a big scar in my life. It was a small cult,” he said.
Davis, Friesen, Kudriki, and others stated that physical abuse was wrong, but psychological and spiritual manipulation was even worse.
When Kayla Pickles attended school in the late 1990s, she said the principal would often call her into his office after she broke one of the school’s many rules, such as asking the teacher questions. She said that he would yell and yell at her for two or three hours at a time.
“He said I was filled with the devil and succumbed to the dark side,” Pickles said.
“It should have been shut down a long time ago”
In a statement this week, school and church officials say they will support any former student who asks for it.
“We have cooperated and will continue to cooperate fully with any officials or authorities who investigate their actions,” the statement said.
“We continue to encourage and support any former student who believes they have been abused or assaulted to file a police report so these issues can be investigated and resolved properly and in accordance with the law.”
On Wednesday, Saskatchewan’s NDP called on the provincial government to withhold more than $700,000 in public funds given to the school each year until these serious allegations are investigated.
- Freeze funding for Sask. Christian school faces ‘disgusting’ allegations of abuse: opposition, students
Education Secretary Dustin Duncan’s office said no action would be considered pending a police investigation.
The case was referred to Crown prosecutors to consider possible charges. But an email sent to students says the process could take another year.
Most of the students interviewed say Duncan should intervene to protect other children and the entire institution should be closed for good.
“It just makes me sick,” said 25-year-old former student Brooke Parr. “I think it should have been shut down a long time ago.”