Provincial government funding for a Christian school in Saskatoon must be frozen in the face of a series of abuse allegations, the NDP opposition leader says.
“I’m devastated to think this was the experience that shaped these young lives,” Carla Beck said Wednesday.
Some former students of the Christian Center Academy in Saskatoon, now called Legacy Christian Academy, go even further. They demand that the school be closed permanently.
“I think it should be shut down — 100 percent,” said former college student Jillian Kudryk.
In a TBEN News story published Tuesday, nearly a dozen former college students spoke publicly for the first time and shared stories of abuse, including beatings with large, wooden paddles that left them bruised and limped. Others spoke of solitary confinement, coercion and traumatizing rituals such as exorcisms to “cure” students believed to be possessed by demons.
According to Saskatoon Police Service emails obtained by TBEN News, a total of 18 students have filed criminal charges. After a year-long investigation, the police handed over the file to prosecutors in April. It is not clear when a decision will be made on any charges.
School officials turned down multiple interview requests but sent an email stating that things are very different at school now. They say everyone is welcome and anyone who “feels” they have been abused should contact the police.
According to Government of Saskatchewan Public Accounts 2020-21, Legacy Christian Center received public funding of $736,274. The previous year, it received $699,587. It relies on tuition and fundraising for a portion of its corporate budget, but like other private schools, has also been supported by taxpayers for the past decade.
Wednesday afternoon, Beck and education critic Matt Love hosted a press conference outside the school and next to Mile Two Church.
They called the accusations “horrific” and “sickening” and praised the students for their courage. They called on the ruling Saskatchewan party and Education Secretary Dustin Duncan to freeze provincial funding for the school and strengthen oversight of private schools.
“It fills me with determination to get to the bottom of these allegations,” Beck said.
Beck said she is angry that Duncan has been aware of the allegations and the criminal investigation since June but has done nothing. “How can you hear these accusations and not have the curiosity to get to the bottom of it?” she asked.
She said a government that has no interest in protecting students “is clearly a government that has lost its way.”
Love said Duncan “not only didn’t trade, but even gave more money to these schools… He has to get up and do his job or step aside.”
An official said Duncan would not be available for comment. The official sent a written statement by email stating that the safety of all students is a top priority. He said no action will be taken at this time.
“Decisions on further investigation or funding will not be made until the police investigation has been completed,” the statement said.