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Deaf Canadian Schools In Lawsuit Alleging Abuse

Deaf News: Canadian schools for the Deaf facing lawsuit alleging abuse.

CBC HALIFAX -- A Halifax law firm says it has filed a statement of claim in Nova Scotia Supreme Court alleging systemic sexual, physical, and mental abuse against Deaf children who attended two segregated residential schools in the province.

Lawyer Ray Wagner says Wednesday's move is an important step in a proposed class action lawsuit that still needs to be certified by a judge before proceeding to trial.

The schools named in the claim are the School for the Deaf in Halifax and the Interprovincial School for the Education of the Deaf in Amherst.

The Nova Scotia government has also been named as a defendant in allegations that have not been proven in court.

The claim alleges the province, which was responsible for the operation and oversight of the institutions, chose not to properly investigate or stop the abuse and mistreatment of the children, and that its actions constitute negligence and breach of fiduciary duty.

The law firm says that to date it has been contacted by over 150 former students of the two schools.


Another class action was proposed in 2010 by Merchant Law group of Saskatchewan. Two other men were named as lead plaintiffs in that action. But there's no indication it has proceeded beyond the initial filing.

60 people signed up.

There have also been criminal allegations against staff at the schools over the years.

Wagner said a lot of people have already expressed interest in joining this proposed class action.

"We held a town hall meeting at the Halifax library where there were approximately 80 people had attended to listen to what we were saying and proposing with a class action," Wagner told CBC News.

"And already at this early stage we have 60 people that have signed up."

Wagner's firm also a multi-million dollar settlement in the Home for Coloured Children case.

"We're hearing the same stories, the same narrative," Wagner said. "It is a very common experience, both by people in the school for the Deaf and the Nova Scotia Home for Coloured children."

Wagner said people wanting to join the lawsuit over the schools for the Deaf will have to be patient. He said the suit must wait two months before the next step is taken, and he predicts any litigation is still many months away.


Class action lawsuit alleges abuse at Ontario schools for the Deaf.
Four provincial schools for the Deaf named in $325-million lawsuit.

TORONTO -- A Toronto man alleges he was abused for years at Ontario schools for the Deaf and has launched a class action lawsuit on behalf of other former students against the provincial government.

The statement of claim, filed Monday in Ontario Superior Court of Justice, alleges sexual, physical and mental abuse at four provincially run schools for the Deaf over the course of decades.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Christopher Welsh, in his statment of claim, accuses the province of negligence in the establishment, funding, operation, management and supervision of schools in Ottawa, London, Belleville and Milton.

"Students have suffered sexual, physical and emotional abuse at the hands of teachers, residence counsellors, other students and employees of the schools," reads the statement of claim.

A spokesman for the province's Ministry of Education would not comment on the case as it is before the courts, but said the current government believes every child deserves high-quality education and a supportive learning environment.

"Over the years, we have been committed to ensuring students in our schools have access to the supports and resources they need to succeed," said Gary Wheeler. "This includes our most vulnerable students."

Welsh went to two of the schools named in the class-action suit -- Ernest C. Drury School for the Deaf in Milton, Ont., where he lived from the time he was five years old in 1964, followed by Robarts School for the Deaf in London, Ont., according to the claim.

He said he was forced to wear hearing aids and was repeatedly struck across his ears, leaving him bloodied and in pain.

'Form of punishment'

Welsh's claim also alleges he was hit with rolled up magazines across his hands and beaten with a stick and belt by teachers as "a form of punishment" for using sign language instead of speech when conversing with other students.

He alleges teachers and counsellors often snuck up behind him, taking advantage of his hearing problems, and would grab him at the urinal and slam him into a wall or rip the chair out from under him as he was sat doing homework.

Later, when he attended the Robarts School for the Deaf, the abuse continued, according to the claim.

A counsellor at Robarts, wearing leather boots with pointed toes, repeatedly ambushed Welsh and kicked him in the buttocks, leaving him bruised and in pain when sitting. The counsellor did the same thing to other students, the claim alleges.

Teachers and staff often called him "Deaf and Dumb."

The statement of claim suggests Welsh was not alone.

"Hundreds, if not thousands" of students may have been affected, said Welsh's lawyer, Robert Gain, with the firm Koskie Minsky.

Teachers hit students in the mouth to teach them how to talk, the claim charges.

If students didn't use speech to communicate, teachers would "forcefully hold students' arms and restrain them" so they couldn't use sign language.

The statement of claim alleges counsellors took advantage of the students' hearing problems by sneaking up, often under their beds, to grab their feet and pull them down. Other students would have to lie face down on their beds as counsellors spanked them repeatedly, causing injuries in many cases, according to the claim.

Gain said he has spoken with other survivors who shared similar stories of alleged abuse. Two other schools, Belleville's Sir James Whitney School for the Deaf and Ottawa's Centre Jules-Leger in Ottawa have also been named in the lawsuit.

Gain said Welsh "wanted to bring this case forward and shine a light on the problem so that others would have access to justice and could have their stories heard and the province held responsible and accountable for the misconduct."

"The province certainly had a duty to have proper procedures and oversight and they failed to live up to their obligations to these vulnerable students," he said, adding he believes there may be more former students who want to share their stories.

Gain said the next step is to seek certification -- the court's permission -- to continue the case. The lawsuit is seeking $325 million in damages.


Related: #Deaf Schools
Related Deaf Canadians: #Deaf Canadians
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