5 Nov 2007

Anglican school under investigation for abusing its students offers alumni souvenir dolls

Globe & Mail - Canada

November 3, 2007

'... a lasting keepsake of your time at Grenville'

by Michael Valpy

For the memory of abuse that keeps on living: a $150 doll wearing the student uniform of Ontario's Grenville Christian College.

The now-defunct private school outside Brockville marketed the dolls to its alumni this week as police continued a criminal investigation into allegations of physical and sexual abuse by former staff, and lawyers prepared civil suits against the school's owners and former staff and the Anglican diocese in which Grenville is located.

A flyer sent out on the school's e-mail service advertised the dolls as "a special offer for our alumni - a way to remember - a lasting keepsake of your time at Grenville." The flyer said Asian dolls could be ordered for foreign students who attended Grenville.

Tyler Holmes of Toronto, a former student who went to the police with abuse allegations, called the doll sales "incredibly warped and inappropriate in light of the current circumstances."

Former student Jennifer Reid, now a teacher in Peterborough, Ont., said the police and church investigations into what went on in the school have compelled Grenville's alumni to recount details of very difficult and damaging experiences.

"These are memories that can haunt a lifetime, and the trauma is again fresh and on the surface right now," said Ms. Reid, who prodded the Anglican Church into opening an inquiry into its priests who were at the school.

"To promote these dolls as a 'lasting keepsake' is another way of saying that abuse didn't happen to students at GCC. The dolls are an expression of denial about what is really going on."

Her comments were echoed by former student Richard Van Dusen of Toronto, who has been interviewed by both the police and the church. He called the doll sales campaign "insane."

Said Mr. Van Dusen: "Isn't it wrong for the school - which is now closed - to be trying to raise funds? Isn't it wrong for them to be trying to generate these funds by selling effigies of people who are claiming to have been abused? Isn't it wrong for everyone to be sitting around and waiting for it all to just go away?"

No one connected with the school could be reached for comment. The last remaining staff stopped work on Wednesday.

The school's board of directors has not issued any statement since the allegations surfaced in the news media at the end of August. The Anglican Church put its investigation on hold once it learned of a possible civil suit.

The dolls are made by one of the approximately 30 remaining members of the Community of the Good Shepherd, which owns the school. Some of the members are elderly and without means of support.

The community has put the school - valued at more than $15-million - up for sale. One well-informed source said there has been a single $5-million offer.


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