6 Jan 2009

No abuse charges laid at Grenville College

Anglican Journal - Canada

January 5, 2009

by Anglican Journal Staff

The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) announced on Nov. 21 that no charges will be laid in connection with allegations of past abuse at the now-closed Grenville Christian College (GCC), a private school run by Anglican priests in the mid-1970s.

Meanwhile, the diocese of Ontario said that its own inquiry into allegations of psychological and physical abuse involving two of its priests, one of whom served as headmaster for 20 years at GCC, has been delayed as a result of the OPP’s investigation and because its incorporated synod had been named defendant in a class action lawsuit filed by former students in October 2007.

“The completion of the bishop’s inquiry remains delayed because the diocese cannot breach the rules of civil procedure as he (the bishop of the diocese of Ontario, George Bruce) would have direct contact with the various litigants if he resumed the canonical process,” said Archdeacon Wayne Varley, diocesan executive officer, in a message sent to members of the diocese. He explained that the diocese “operates according to the laws of the civil province of Ontario and the Criminal Code of Canada.” But, he said, “our pastoral responsibility continues to be stewards of Christ’s healing, justice and reconciliation within our parishes and the communities we serve in his name.”

Archdeacon Varley said that Bishop Bruce intends to complete the investigation “at the appropriate time.”

This article was found at:



No criminal charges will be laid in Anglican school abuse case

Orleans woman named in abuse lawsuit against school

Second class-action suit against Anglican School seeking $225M in damages

Second lawsuit filed against Grenville Christian College and the Anglican Diocese of Ontario

Second lawsuit launched against Anglican School

$1B suit launched against Anglican College

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

Criminal investigation of closed school continues

Proposed sale of school in Ontario irks lawyer in abuse case

Anglican bishop suspends abuse investigation

Mothers of invention: how two charismatic women created an abusive cult

When will church learn lessons about abuse scandals?

Emotional headmaster apologizes to Grenville alumni

Ontario police open investigation into abuse claims

Anglican bishop reviewing allegations of cult practices and abuse at Grenville Christian College

Ontario Police study abuse allegations

Community of Jesus leader implicated in 1990s abuse probe

Class-action suit being prepared against Anglican school

Bishop may convene rare ecclesiastical court

Church denies that closed, controversial school was Anglican

Abuse probe widens to include ex-teachers

Anglicans weigh sanctions against priest

Canadian probe put Community of Jesus under scrutiny

Anglican bishop rejects ex-student's plea to investigate abuse claims

Born into abusive grip of a cult

Local paper was advised not to publish abuse allegations at Christian college

Apology for 'hurt and pain' at private school

Former students of private religious college tell of exorcisms and harsh discipline

One of Canada's oldest, most elite Anglican schools was "a place that destroyed children"

Compensation inadequate say some victims of sex abuse by Anglican minister at school with "culture of abuse", deal at risk


  1. A class action must be preferable for systemic abuse cases

    by Margaret L. Waddell, Canadian Lawyer Magazine June 11, 2012

    In August 2007, Grenville Christian College, a private boarding school near Brockville, Ont., closed its doors, citing changing demographics, declining enrolment and rising costs for the closure. At the same time, allegations of physical, sexual, and psychological abuse, including cult-like practices at the school, were gaining publicity. Indeed, by September 2007, the chairman of the board of the school had issued a personal apology to the students, and advised that the board was considering a more formal apology and possible financial compensation for the victims. No such compensation was forthcoming. Instead, a class action lawsuit — Cavanaugh v. Grenville Christian College — was commenced naming the local Anglican diocese, the school, and two senior school administrators and their wives.

    The motion for certification a class proceeding finally reached the court at the end of April 2012. On May 23, Justice Paul Perell released reasons declining certification, concluding that a class proceeding was not the preferable procedure, although all other aspects of the test for certification had been met, except as against the diocese. The decision denying certification of this institutional abuse case stands in stark contrast to the decisions of the Supreme Court and courts of appeal in Ontario and British Columbia, and with all due respect to the learned motions judge, I would argue that it is in error.

    Several cases of institutional abuse have been certified as class actions. In these cases, such as Rumley v. British Columbia and Cloud v. Canada (Attorney General), the focus of the claims has been on allegations of systemic negligence by the defendants, rather than focusing on the injuries sustained by the individual class members. In Cavanaugh, the same theory of systemic negligence was advanced.

    The one aspect of the case against the Grenville Christian College that differentiates it from the residential school cases are the allegations that the school officials engaged in psychological abuse through religious, cult-like practices. But those allegations are not actually any different than the overt purpose of the residential schools to assimilate native children to western culture, including the Christian faith. It matters not in what form the abuse was occurring. The challenges of establishing historical abuse on a systemic basis are comparable, regardless of the manner in which it was manifested.

    In his decision on certification, Perell conceded that he was bound by the higher court decisions in Cloud, Rumley, and Slark (Litigation Guardian of) v. Ontario, with respect to the common issues requirement, and found there were common issues as to whether the defendants owed and breached either a duty of care or fiduciary duty to the class. Similar issues were certified in the residential school abuse cases.

    Perell was reluctant to certify these common issues, as he was of the view that they actually lacked in commonality “principally because, in my opinion, the resolution of the proposed common issues would not avoid duplication of fact-finding or legal analysis.” In his view, asserted without explanation, the evidence and legal analysis from the common issues trial would have to be repeated in proving individual causation and damages.

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  2. continued from previous comment:

    Here is where the motions judge made his first in a series of analytical errors, which lead to his finding that this case should be distinguished from Cloud, and that a class action was not the preferable procedure. However, for the purposes of the common issues analysis, Perell did concede that he was bound by the higher courts’ rulings, including the general admonition from the Court of Appeal in Cloud, that “an issue can constitute a substantial ingredient of the claims and satisfy s. 5(1)(c) [of the Class Proceedings Act, 1992] even if it makes up a very limited aspect of the liability question and even though many individual issues remain to be decided after its resolution.”

    Perell commenced his preferable procedure analysis, by misstating the test for preferable procedure as including the issue of whether the class proceeding would be better than other methods of “resolving the dispute.” That is, of course, not the test at all. As s. 5(1)(d) states, and the Supreme Court decision in Hollick explains, the issue is whether “a class proceeding would be the preferable procedure for the resolution of the common issues,” taking into account the importance of the common issues in relation to the claims as a whole.

    The issue is not whether answering the common issues will lead to resolution of the entire dispute. Rather, the question for the court to determine is whether a class action is a fair, efficient, and manageable method of advancing the claim, taking into consideration the common issues in their context. The preferability requirement in s. 5(1)(d) of the CPA can be met even where there are substantial individual issues that remain to be determined at individual hearings. So long as the answers to the common issues will significantly advance the action as a whole, then the preferability test will be met.

    In concluding that a class action was not the preferable procedure, Perell accepted the defendants’ arguments that the plaintiffs would have to “replicate the fact-finding and legal analysis of the common issues trial.” This completely misses the point of the class proceeding. The findings of fact and law determined at the common issues trial are then binding on the parties, and form part of the record for the individual issues trials.

    There is no need, at all, to revisit the issues of systemic negligence when the class members present their cases to prove individual causation and damages. The table is already set with the findings of the school’s breach of duty of care and/or breach of fiduciary duty. It will only remain for the individual to establish that the breach(es) caused or contributed to the class members’ individual damages.

    Perell suggests that proof of systemic negligence will make proof of the individuals’ claims more difficult, and will impede access to justice. He does not explain how this is so, and the example he advances in paragraph 158 of his reasons does nothing to shed light on why the allegations of systemic negligence will actually make the individual claims more difficult.

    If the plaintiffs are able to establish their allegation that it was a systemic breach of the defendants’ duty of care to inflict psychological abuse, including to “indoctrinate students in the fanatical teachings of the Community of Jesus,” (a much more serious allegation than the tempered language of “the school’s adoption of Mother Cay’s and Mother Judy’s teachings” as Perell frames the allegation) then it only remains for the individual plaintiffs to establish how this indoctrination damaged them, personally.

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  3. continued from previous comment:

    The difficulty in the plaintiffs’ case will be in establishing systemic negligence and breach of fiduciary duty. But, should they succeed, there will be nothing more onerous or difficult about proving causation and damages in this case than in Cloud.

    In stark contrast to Cloud, Perell concluded that the plaintiffs’ complaints should proceed as individual, jointly case-managed actions, which was not an option argued for by the parties. However, case managing many individual actions does not promote judicial economy, nor will it result in any procedural benefits to the defendants. Nor will it promote access to justice.

    This case is not analogous to the Hudson v. Austin case Perell cites as an example of proceeding effectively with multiple claims against the same defendant. That was a case of medical malpractice where the plaintiffs’ counsel conceded that the case was not appropriate for certification, but was prepared to act on a contingency retainer for the 99 affected individuals. In Cavanaugh, there is no evidence of any such concession in the reasons, and no evidence that the class’ claims could or would be taken on by class counsel on an individual contingency retainer.

    Furthermore, the Class Proceedings Fund funded the claim. The reasons do not suggest that there was any evidence before the court that individual class members would be prepared to assume the risks of a negative costs award — a risk from which they are protected by the fund. Hence, compelling the class to pursue individual claims will be entirely antithetical to the goals of judicial economy and access to justice.

    It appears that Cavanaugh is in all respects comparable to Cloud. In both cases, the plaintiffs allege systemic abuses in the manner in which the schools were operated. Those issues focus on the conduct of the defendants, and the scope of their duty of care to a class of children left under their care. Both actions, in my view, should be certified as class actions for the same reasons.

    Margaret L. Waddell

    is a senior partner at Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein LLP in Toronto. She has a varied advocacy practice including a broad range of complex commercial and shareholder litigation, professional liability cases, class actions and appellate advocacy. She can be reached at marg.waddell@paliareroland.com.


  4. Appeal filed in school abuse case after class action lawsuit denied

    By Adam Miller, The Canadian Press Winnipeg Free Press 08/25/2012

    TORONTO - A group of former students of a Christian college in eastern Ontario claiming abuse do not have the emotional strength to pursue individual lawsuits, their lawyer is arguing.
    A judge denied certification earlier this year for their proposed $200-million class-action lawsuit against Grenville Christian College and its two former headmasters and the Anglican Diocese of Ontario, saying it isn't the preferable procedure.

    But Loretta Merritt, one of the three lawyers for the plaintiffs, said that individuals would struggle to move forward with the case on their own and a class-action suit is the best way for them to be heard.
    "If this decision were to stand then each individual survivor would have to come forward and say 'I want to pursue an individual action,'" she said.

    "Will those people want to launch individual actions? I don't know. That's one of the concerns we have and one of the reasons why we are appealing. We are concerned that individuals may not have the emotional or financial wherewithal to pursue it on their own."

    Currently there are five plaintiffs, but Merritt said about 300 people have been in touch with her and her co-counsel to pursue becoming part of the lawsuit.

    "We do believe that a class action is a preferable procedure," Merritt said. "He did find that all the other criteria for certification had been met."

    Grenville Christian College, which was run by Anglican priests, closed in August 2007 as allegations surfaced that psychological, physical and sexual abuse extended to the late 1970s.

    At that time the chairman of the board of directors cited "changing demographics, declining enrolment, and increasing operating costs" as reasons for the closure.

    The school had an elite reputation among Ontario private schools, charging up to $35,000 annually, and listed former lieutenant governors, a senator and a Canadian diplomat among its patrons.

    The plaintiffs in the case are former students at the college, which operated both as a junior school and residential high school, and they alleged in the lawsuit that they were subjected to years of abuse.
    The suit claimed the school was run as a mind-control cult that left the former students traumatized.

    None of the allegations have been proven in court.

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  5. continued from previous comment...

    The allegations prompted the Anglican Church to launch an inquiry in 2007 into the activities of two priests who were headmasters, Rev. Charles Farnsworth and Rev. J. Alistair Haig, in addition to an investigation by the Ontario Provincial Police.

    The OPP investigation concluded in November 2008 and no charges were laid. After consultations with the Crown they decided that charges were not in the public interest.

    The plaintiffs have serious claims that should be tried in court, Justice Paul Perell of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled in May. But a class-action lawsuit is not the way to go, he found.

    "The technique is a penny wise, pound foolish way to secure access to justice because it will make proof of the individual members' claims more difficult," Perell said in his decision.

    "In the case at bar, the expediency of framing the claim as systemic wrongdoing would not facilitate but will impede access to justice for the individual class members."

    The lawsuit had also been filed against the Anglican Diocese of Ontario, but Perell dismissed the claim against them.

    The diocese was unavailable for comment.

    Lawyer Geoff Adair, who represents the defendants, said he expected the judge's decision because of the wide range of claims made by the plaintiffs.

    "I argued for that result so I'm not surprised by the fact that it was granted," he said. "My reasoning was that there was such a variety of complaints that they really didn't fit in a class action and had to be tried individually."

    Adair said that allegations varied from psychological, physical and sexual abuse, in addition to failing to accommodate learning disabilities and failing to promote Anglican values, which he said would be too far-reaching for a class action lawsuit.

    Perell acknowledged in his decision that there were commonalities between this case and other cases of alleged abuse at residential schools in former Supreme Court rulings, but that there were too many individual issues that overwhelmed the common issues.

    Plaintiffs have argued for "systemic negligence" at the school in their appeal, indicating that the way the school was run was in breach of duty to the students.

    The plaintiffs would have to prove that injuries were as a result of the school's adoption of the teachings of a small Orleans, Mass., group called the Community of Jesus, "which is a far more difficult task than proving that he was injured because Father Farnsworth beat him with a paddle," Perell's decision said.

    Merritt said she and her co-counsel are "cautiously optimistic" after perfecting the appeal. They are now waiting for the defendants to file their responding materials so that the court can set a date for an oral hearing at the Court of Appeal, which is expected to occur before the end of the year.


  6. Class action appeals: a game of snakes & ladders

    Trials & Tribulations

    by Margaret L. Waddell, Canadian Lawyer Magazine July 08, 2013

    The pressing need for legislative reform of appeal routes in class action proceedings was highlighted in the recent Ontario Court of Appeal decision Cavanaugh v. Grenville Christian College. In that case, the Court of Appeal heard and decided only one part of an appeal from a denial of certification, and refused to hear the balance of the appeal, which it sent sliding down the snake’s tail to the Divisional Court.

    This case demonstrates that ascertaining the appropriate appeal route for decisions taken in class actions can be convoluted and downright illogical in some cases. In my opinion, the Class Proceedings Act, 1992, should be amended to completely bypass the Divisional Court, so all appeals are brought to the Court of Appeal — either as of right from a final order including a denial of certification, or with leave in respect of interlocutory orders, such as granting certification.

    Given the high stakes inevitably involved in class proceedings, more often than not there are multiple appeals and multiple layers of appeal in every case as it makes the long journey to the common issues trial. Every layer of appeal adds to the expense and increases the delays in reaching a final determination of the merits of the case.

    Streamlining appeal routes in class proceedings makes eminent good sense, as it would substantially reduce the demands on courtroom time, as well as reducing the expenses for all parties in bringing or responding to appeals.

    At the outset of its decision in Cavanaugh, the Court of Appeal identified the current legislative morass in which class action appeals are tangled:

    “Appellate jurisdiction in proceedings under the CPA is divided between the Court of Appeal and the Divisional Court. Some appeals go to the Divisional Court under s. 30 of the CPA and others go to this court. The general appeal power provisions in the Courts of Justice Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. C.43 are also relevant when the specific provisions of s. 30 have no application.”

    In addition, under s. 6(2) of the Courts of Justice Act, the Court of Appeal has the discretionary jurisdiction to permit an appeal that should properly be heard by the Divisional Court to climb up the ladder, bootstrapped on to a concurrent appeal that is to be heard by the Court of Appeal.

    The plaintiffs in Cavanaugh asked the Court of Appeal to exercise that discretion, but it declined to do so. While the appeal court certainly had no statutory obligation to hear the entire appeal from the denial of certification, its refusal to do so resulted in an inefficient use of court and lawyer resources. Particularly, the full certification motion record would have been before the Court of Appeal, and the parties’ facta would have fully addressed all the issues which the appellants were asking the court to determine, either with or without leave.

    Since all the issues were fully briefed, it would merely be a matter of the additional court time allotted for oral argument on the second issue, and the judge’s time in deciding that issue that would have to be expended. Instead, the practical result of the Court of Appeal sending half of the appeal back to the Divisional Court is the parties will each have to prepare new appeal books and new facta, three more judges will have to review those materials, hear the argument, and render a decision.

    Then, there will likely be yet another foray to the Court of Appeal from whatever the Divisional Court decides. This is by far not the highest and best use of judicial resources, and yet, it is currently what the legislation mandates.

    continued below

  7. Additionally, the Court of Appeal’s reasons in Cavanaugh could have the unintended result of creating more bifurcated appeals from certification. Particularly, it invites every case where the court finds the requirements of s. 5(1)(a) of the CPA have not been met to include a term in the order from the certification motion that expressly dismisses that aspect of the claim. The plaintiff must then bring an appeal from that aspect of the order directly to the Court of Appeal.

    Section 5(1)(a) requires the plaintiff to establish that the pleadings disclose a cause of action. The test for this section engages the same test as a Rule 21 motion to strike a pleading for disclosing no cause of action. In some cases a defendant will bring a separate motion under Rule 21 either before or at the same time as certification.

    In other cases, the defendants will simply challenge the adequacy of the pleading under s. 5(1)(a). The substantive effect is the same in either case — if the attack on the pleading is successful, that cause of action cannot proceed. If the attack results in no cause of action remaining against a defendant at all, then the action is at an end as against that party.

    The Court of Appeal’s decision in Cavanaugh accepts that in these circumstances the appropriate appellate forum should be determined from the substance of the order (i.e., dismissal of the claim), and accordingly the appeal is to the Court of Appeal when certification is denied against a defendant for failure to meet s. 5(1)(a).

    That is what happened in Cavanaugh. The certification judge found no reasonable cause of action had been pleaded against the Incorporated Synod of the Diocese of Ontario, and he ordered the claim be dismissed as against that defendant. The motions judge also denied certification of the action as against the remaining defendants, finding a class action was not the preferable procedure. (I have expressed my views on the correctness of the preferability decision in a prior article.)

    The diocese has not brought a motion under Rule 21 of the Rules of Civil Procedure to strike the claim against it. However, the appeal court concluded, effectively, the motions judge had exercised his inherent powers to dismiss the action brought against the diocese, since no motion had been brought seeking that relief, and s. 7 of the CPA did not authorize the judge to make that order. The dismissal of the claim against the diocese was a final order, therefore, the appeal from that part of the certification motion was as of right to the Court of Appeal. Denial of certification of the rest of the plaintiffs’ claim was based upon their failure to meet the requirements of s. 5(1)(d), therefore s. 30(1) of the CPA dictates the appeal is to the Divisional Court, (since the appeal court refused to exercise its discretion under s. 6(2) of the Courts of Justice Act).

    Viewed through the lens of judicial efficiency and access to justice for all the parties, it is hard to accept a multi-streamed route to appeals from certification makes sense. There should be one combined appeal to one appellate court from all aspects of a certification motion (whether combined with a Rule 21 motion or not).

    There is no logical purpose served in sending different issues to different courts. If one court could hear the whole motion at first instance, then one court should hear the whole appeal. In my view, the Court of Appeal is the appropriate forum for all class action appeals. Excising the Divisional Court layer will avoid duplication of costs, result in a speedier resolution of pretrial motions, and ultimately create a more robust and efficient certification process.


  8. Divisional Court says overwhelming individual issues not necessarily bar to certification

    Julius Melnitzer | Financial Post February 24, 2014

    Ontario’s Divisional Court has issued an important ruling that confirms the use of class action lawsuits to broaden access to justice.

    The decision released Monday, Cavanaugh v. Grenville Christian College, arises from complaints of physical and psychological abuse by students of an Anglican boarding school in Brockville, Ont.

    The case exemplified a “powerful economic barrier” to access to justice, the appellate court said. “One need only look to the costs order made following the certification motion to understand that ‘most individuals cannot afford to pursue litigation on this scale,’” the court held.

    A class action would streamline the legal process, advancing the goal of judicial economy and avoiding the risk of inconsistent outcomes, the divisional court concluded.

    The divisional court certified the action based on criteria set out in a recent Supreme Court of Canada decision, AIC Ltd. v. Fischer. That case sets out a framework for a “preferability analysis,” which is an inquiry a motions judge must make to determine whether it would be better to continue the case as a single class action or as a series of separate individual lawsuits. The frame work requires the judge to consider the three goals of class proceedings: judicial economy, behaviour modification and access to justice.

    Motions judge Paul Perell had originally denied certification. In his view, the case met all the requirements for certification except that he couldn’t consider it to be the “preferable procedure.” Judge Perell was concerned the unique circumstances of each individual plaintiff would overwhelm the common issues that could be decided at a single trial.

    The plaintiffs, represented by Kirk Baert of Koskie Minsky and Russell Raikes of McKenzie Lake, appealed. The divisional court ruled that Judge Perell erred in deciding the case without considering the correct criteria in his preferable procedure analysis — though it should be noted that Judge Perell ruled on Cavanaugh v. Grenville Christian College before the Supreme Court released its Fischer decision.

    The divisional court also said Judge Perell erred by imposing an alternative procedure not advocated by the parties. A judge, the divisional court ruled, ought not to grant relief for which no request was made and no submissions heard.


  9. $225-million lawsuit against Christian school can go ahead

    by NICK GARDINER | QMI AGENCY Sun News February 25th, 2014

    BROCKVILLE, ON ─ A $225-million class-action lawsuit alleging abuse against students attending Grenville Christian College from 1973 to 1997 has been given the go-ahead to proceed.
    A nine-page decision released Monday by an appeal tribunal of the Superior Court of Justice Divisional Court overturned a May 23, 2012 ruling by Judge Paul Perell.

    The decision concluded that Perell was mistaken in refusing to certify the class-action suit.

    The now-closed school and the individual respondents cited in the claim must pay $35,000 to the appellants for the cost of the appeal.

    Similarly, the respondents are ordered to pay the cost to certify the motion of $150,000.

    The $225-million lawsuit filed in 2007 alleges physical and sexual abuse, including bizarre rituals to punish students' sins, which they claim left them traumatized.

    The claim led by five plaintiffs names the school, the Incorporated Synod of the Diocese of Ontario, Rev. Charles Farnsworth, Betty Farnsworth and Judy Hay, executrix for the estate of Alastair Haig and Mary Haig.

    Don Farnsworth, spokesman for the school and respondents Rev. Charles Farnsworth and Betty Farnsworth, his parents, said a trial "is the one way for the truth to come out.

    "I look forward to getting this settled once and for all and to renew the trust and confidence that people had and that many continue to have in Grenville Christian College and its mission," he said.

    "Grenville Christian College was responsible for the education of our students, in body, mind and spirit. The values that we shared with students are the values we believe were part of that education."

    Spokesmen for the complainants and their legal firm could not immediately be reached for comment.


  10. NOTE: the author of this report is a survivor of Grenville Christian College who escaped the worst abuse.

    Cults can spring up from anywhere

    By BRUCE BENSON BlueRidgeNow.com Columnist May 31, 2014

    “Why don’t you do a column on Scientology?” my son asked me the other day. “It’s a harmful cult that hurts a lot of people.”

    I’ve had some experience with cults.

    Founded by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard in 1952, Scientologists believe that millions of years ago an evil alien ruler named Xenu kidnapped millions of aliens and brought them to Earth in spaceships that looked like golden DC 8 airplanes. He then dropped them inside volcanoes and blew them to smithereens by dropping hydrogen bombs into said volcanoes.

    The souls of these aliens, called Thetans, were captured, brainwashed and released. They attached themselves to humans, and that’s why people get sick and have emotional problems. It’s the Thetans.

    Scientology has been hugely criticized as a cult that uses and abuses its members physically, emotionally and financially.

    I had an encounter with Scientology when I was 17 years old. Wandering down a street one day, a pretty girl approached me. She was a Scientologist and asked if I was willing to take a type of IQ test. Once the test was put in front of me, she disappeared, and soon I was bored and left.

    Had I stayed, I might’ve found myself in the company of the likes of Tom Cruise and John Travolta, arguably Scientology’s most famous members. Some 25,000 people in this country are Scientologists.

    This is a cult that sprang from the mind of a science fiction writer reputed to have said that if you want real power, create a religion. And then he proceeded to do just that.

    He wasn’t the first and won’t be the last person to create a religion, I’m sure. Just as I’m reasonably sure Hubbard’s creation is a far cry from Jim Jones and the People’s Temple religion that ended with more than 900 dead, including 300 children, in Jonestown, Guyana, in 1978. Or David Koresh and the Branch Davidians, who ended up with more than 80 people dead when the FBI stormed their compound and it caught fire in Waco, Texas, in 1993.

    But just because nobody dies doesn’t mean a cult is harmless. Anytime members of any group are forced or manipulated to do or believe something, harm is happening. Cults can spring from anywhere, quite often the branching out of a mainstream religion.

    Bob Pardon, director of the New England Institute of Religious Studies in Lakeview Maine, in naming the top 10 most dangerous groups in America, includes the Nation of Islam, the United Pentecostal Church, the Christian Identity Movement (Aryan Nations, Ku Klux Klan) and the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity (Moonies) and others right along with Scientology. In a sense, to single out Scientology is unfair.

    continued below

  11. My personal experience with a cult was at the innocuous-sounding Grenville Christian College when I was 20. I was working for the Company of the Cross, a Christian group that ran three boys’ schools in Canada. One day at morning prayers, I was told that instead of running a school, all the staff would be moving to GCC for a yearlong sabbatical where we would work for free.

    Many of the leaders of the company had traveled to New Brunswick a month before and bore witness to a nun speaking in tongues. Another nun was there to interpret, and the whole thing was recorded. The instructions to go to GCC, we were told, came from God.

    I was skeptical, but the others were convinced. So I went.

    Upon arrival, I was put on a kitchen crew, and as I bent to whatever task they gave me, a man showed up. He wasn’t working — he was just talking to me as I worked. Before long, he started to try to recruit me.

    “Don’t you realize, Bruce, that the reason you have an emptiness inside you, that you feel alone, unsure of yourself, like there’s something missing, is because you haven’t given yourself up to God? You should become a member here. Join us.”

    He was right. I did sometimes feel just like that. But I figured that everybody has feelings like that from time to time. (Or is it those darn Thetans?) Besides, I already belonged to a Christian group.

    He stuck with me for three days. The message was always the same, and it made me uneasy to be stalked like that, but it didn’t bother me enough to want to get out. However, working with another young guy like myself in a freezer that my stalker didn’t want to enter, I had my first unobserved conversation with a contemporary. (We were not allowed to leave the property, speak to others or use the phone without supervision. Why did I let myself get in that situation?)

    “So, there seem to be a lot of pretty girls around here,” I said.

    “Yeah, there’s one girl I really like,” he said. “I want to ask her out on a date, but I need to ask (the leader) for permission, and I haven’t been here long enough.”

    “How long have you been here?”

    “Three years.”

    I was outta there.

    We all escaped eventually, wondering what happened and swapping stories of how we were each approached for indoctrination. For reasons it would take too long to detail here, the experience was the beginning of the end of the schools I so loved.

    Nobody died, but a lot of harm was done. I feel bad to this day that I wasn’t strong enough to prevent it.

    “Believe what you like,” I was told years ago. “Just make sure it’s your belief.”

    I hate to proselytize, as cults do, but I am going to be ever vigilant that I’m not in that situation again. There’s more than Scientologists to be leery of out there, son.

    Bruce Benson is a Canadian writer and journalist who makes Hendersonville his home. Reach him atbensonusa@hotmail.com.


  12. CTVs W5 investigates claims by students at former Grenville Christian College

    CKWS TV / Kingston, ON, Canada / CKWS Newswatch February 05, 2016

    Grenville Christian College near Brockville has been closed for a decade. But allegations about the treatment of former students continue to swirl around the former boarding school. Now, some students who attended the private school are speaking out about allegations of their treatment in a CTV, W-5 Documentary. Newswatch’s Heather Senoran has a preview.

    The allegations are disturbing. Hundreds of former students who used to attend grenville christian college — located here on the outskirts of brockville — have filed a 200-million dollar lawsuit. They want an apology and validation for what they went through. …. claiming the christian school was run like a cult. Here’s a sample of what they’re saying.

    “They took Christianity, which is a religion of love, which was my experience of growing up Anglican… and they inverted it into a cult of hate.”

    “What was I called? I was called a mutt. I was called an animal. I was called a pig.”

    “We were told that women were responsible for anything sexual, for turning men on, whatever, turning the boys on. That men just looked at us as pieces of meat. And if a woman got raped that was her fault because she was a temptress as eve was a temptress.”

    “There are women teachers there. Are they not standing forward and saying don’t talk to the girls like this.”

    “Well it was a very strange thing. No. No women teachers did that.”

    Grenville christian college closed its doors in 2007. what happened in the school for decades is the focus of a “ctv w-5″ documentary … that airs this Saturday on CKWS at 7pm. w-5′s Victor Malorek met with some former students.

    Here’s a preview of the documentary called — “In The Name Of God.”


  13. Former students allege psychological, physical and sexual abuse at Ont. Christian school

    Victor Malarek, CTV News W5 Senior Reporter February 6, 2016

    For hundreds of former students, the school, which now sits empty having closed its doors in 2007, is a place haunted with painful memories.

    W5 spoke with several alumni who recounted disturbing stories about their years at the school and the abuses they suffered – allegations of physical, sexual and psychological abuse during the 1970s, '80s and '90s.

    Mark Vincent attended Grenville in the '70s. “Probably the worst memory, they beat the crap out of me with a desk top to the point where I couldn’t stand, because God told them to do it to me.”

    Standing at the edge of the property, Jacqueline Thomas could barely look up at the sprawling campus. She was a student in the '90s. “This is the first time I’ve been here in 22 years. I’m trying really hard not to cry. But I feel sick. I’m terrified.”

    With a Grenville brochure in hand, Andrew Hale-Byrne recalled his family’s search for a school and thinking they’d found a place like the finest boarding schools in his native United Kingdom.

    “My mother commented that it looked better than most country clubs she’d seen. It was beautiful. It was actually breathtaking,” Andrew said.

    But soon after arriving at the school, he witnessed first-hand the dark side.

    “One thing that stuck out in my mind and I found this particularly disturbing from the very first moment I witnessed it was the public humiliations in the chapel and the dining room where they (the headmaster and teachers) would drag a student onto the stage and that person would be ripped apart, humiliated, shamed in front of the entire student body.”

    What Andrew found troubling was that the brochure promised “love and Christian teaching,” but, he says, they got neither.

    “They took Christianity which is a religion of love which was my experience of growing up Anglican and they inverted it into a cult of hate.”

    “I was told that in order to be loved by God I had to pass through the light and that involved going through what they called a ‘light session’ which is one of these public humiliations. And you had to die to self they said in order to be loved by God, and that involved hating yourself,” Andrew explained.

    “After two years of being there I came to believe that I was garbage, filth, trash. We were told ‘God hates you. God doesn’t love you. You’re damned.’ And I came to just normalize this.”

    Andrew has written a book about his experiences, which is available online.

    Dan Michielsen entered Grenville in 1985 in grade 10. He described himself as a happy go lucky 15-year-old but all that changed within a couple of weeks with a rude awakening.

    Dan recalled being dragged out of bed along with other boys in the dormitory in the middle of the night by staff. “Lights would be turned on and we were berated and screamed at for being sinful boys.”

    Sinful boys, but the girls were singled out by headmaster Charles Farnsworth and other staff for far more degrading attacks simply because they were female.

    Sheila Coons recalled the headmaster seeing her as the Devil incarnate.

    “He would say that I had a devil inspired body and that I was tempting men by my devil inspired body. He compared me to Lucifer because at the time I was blonde and Lucifer apparently had blonde hair.”

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  14. According to Sheila and confirmed by other former students W5 interviewed, Farnsworth often accused girls of inviting sexual attention.

    “Father Farnworth took me into the Vestry and told me that I was a whore and I looked like a whore and I had really no alternative in life but to be a whore,” Sheila said.

    “We were told that women are responsible for anything sexual, for turning men on, turning boys on, that men just looked at us as pieces of meat. And if a woman got raped that was her fault. She was a temptress as Eve was a temptress, as Jezebel was a temptress and then the list goes on.”

    Farnworth’s tirades about women may have hidden his own lust.

    “He would call me up to his office frequently, take me out of class and tell me what an awful, sinful creature I was.

    “On this one occasion he stood up, pressed his body against mine. He said, ‘you smell good’ and he clenched me to him and he put his mouth on my neck and licked it and he pressed his hips up against mine.

    “At the time I thought he was obsessed with me. I found out later that he was doing it to other girls as well.”

    Today, these students are grown up but they still feel the pain, and are now part of a $200-million lawsuit – a class action – on behalf of hundreds of former boarding school students, claiming systemic abuse and bizarre religious practices at the hands of Grenville staff, especially Father Charles Farnsworth.

    Farnsworth’s version of what went on at Grenville may never be fully known. He died in March 2015. But former students had already launched their class action against the school by this time.

    Farnsworth came to the school in 1972 and by 1983 he was named headmaster, a position he held for the next 14 years. What students likely didn’t know back then was that he and other staff members were disciples of an American group called the Community of Jesus based in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

    Reports by U.S. news media beginning in the 1980s described the group as a cult which practiced communal living and extreme rituals, particularly when it came to disciplining each other.

    As a devout follower, Farnsworth applied the teachings of the Community of Jesus at Grenville on unsuspecting students.

    Before his death, Farnsworth wrote about the allegations in a document obtained by W5. “The whole reason for being in our mission was to bring these people into the realm of the Christ ….”

    Farnsworth added: ‘We have been accused of many things that I never knew of and never heard of … But I honestly think some of the people have gone delusional. Some of the things they said happened, some of the accusations of sexual abuse by me, they just didn’t happen.”

    Many former Grenville staff also vigorously deny the allegations put forward in the lawsuit.

    However, Joan Childs, a former teacher and administrator at the school, as well as a follower of the Community of Jesus and one of Farnsworth’s inner circle, told W5 that the students are telling the truth.

    “They aren’t exaggerating. They aren’t making these things up. As sad as it is, these things happened.”

    She has apologized for what was done to students at the school while she was there.

    Victor Malarek is an investigative reporter with W5. His documentary In the Name of God can be seen on CTV’s W5 Saturday at 7 pm.


  15. Former Grenville Christian College students tell harrowing stories of abuse

    Charles Farnsworth and J. Alastair Haig, founders of the Brockville, Ont., private school, were members of the Community of Jesus, described in a 1981 Boston magazine story as a cult that practiced physical and psychological abuse.

    By: Ben Spurr Staff Reporter, Toronto Star February 29 2016

    It’s been nearly a decade since the Grenville Christian College closed, but some of the institution’s former students say they’re still haunted by what happened behind its doors.

    From 1973 until it shut down in 2007, the elite private boarding school northeast of Brockville, Ont. promised pupils a world-class religious and academic education at an idyllic campus on the shores of the St. Lawrence River.

    But a $225-million class action lawsuit alleges that pupils who lived and studied there got something much more damaging — a strict regime of arbitrary discipline, bizarre religious practices, and systemic abuse that left them “sexually, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually traumatized.”

    Grenville denied the accusations in the suit, which was launched in 2008 and certified in 2014. According to a statement of defence the college filed in 2010 “there is no truth whatsoever” to the allegations. “The representative plaintiffs were never, advertently or inadvertently, subjected to any conduct in the nature of physical or mental abuse,” the statement said.

    In fact, the school’s defence stated, “Grenville enjoyed a good reputation over the years in Ontario and elsewhere for its academic prowess, extracurricular activities and caring approach toward the betterment of young people in its charge.”

    In affidavits to support the class action, five former students described life at the school as being dominated by fear, humiliation and occasionally violence. Two more Grenville alumni interviewed by the Star described similarly traumatizing experiences.

    The class action covers people who attended the school between 1973 and 1997, and according to a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, so far 182 former pupils have come forward expressing interest in making a claim.

    Dan Michielsen enrolled at the college in 1985 when he was 15 years old. In an interview with the Star, he said that by the time he left four years later, he was “a wreck.”

    He alleged that two weeks after arriving at Grenville a staff member woke him up by punching him in the groin, an apparent punishment for talking in his sleep. Michielsen said he was then dragged into the washroom and forced to clean it with a toothbrush. The staff member urinated on him as he scrubbed the floor, he said.

    Michielsen said he was often berated by staff, who called him “disgusting,” “evil,” a “pig,” and a “mutt.”

    Now 46, he says he has been left with debilitating self-esteem problems as a result of the alleged abuse. “After a while, I just accepted that I was a loser, that I was a s---, that I should just shut my mouth,” he said. “The doubt is always there.”

    Another former student, Andrew Hale-Byrne, alleged in his affidavit that while at Grenville between 1988 and 1990, he was physically assaulted, punished with sleep deprivation and forced labour, and even subjected to an exorcism to “cure” his dyslexia.

    In an interview, he said he left the college believing that he deserved to be abused and that he was “damned” to hell.

    “(Grenville) destroyed you to the point where you thought you couldn’t achieve in life, and you didn’t deserve to achieve,” he said. He likened life at the college to “waking up in a horror movie.”

    Central to the lawsuit are allegations of close ties between Grenville faculty and a small religious sect founded in Massachusetts in the 1970s called the Community of Jesus. A 1981 Boston magazine story reported that former members of the Community described it as a cult that practiced physical and psychological abuse. The group’s leadership at the time denied the report.

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  16. According to the plaintiffs’ statement of claim, while the school presented itself as Anglican, the college’s staff engaged in a “systematic campaign . . . to promote and indoctrinate students in the teachings” of the Community of Jesus.

    Fathers Charles Farnsworth and J. Alastair Haig, who co-founded Grenville,were members of the Community of Jesus, but in 1977 they were also ordained Anglican priests. Haig served as headmaster until 1983, at which point Farnsworth took over until 1997.

    In affidavits for the suit, two former teachers said many staff were either members of the Community of Jesus or shared its values, but the college’s statement of defence denied the school promoted the sect’s beliefs to students.

    In an interview with CTV’s investigative news program W5 that aired Feb. 6, Joan Childs, who was a teacher and administrator at Grenville for 32 years beginning in 1972, said one of the techniques Grenville staff imported from the Community of Jesus were so-called “light sessions.”

    The former students who filed affidavits and spoke to the Star described these sessions as a form of ritual humiliation in which they were compelled to confess sins, real or imagined, while staff screamed abuse at them. The sessions could occur day or night, in front of a group or alone.

    Childs told W5 the sessions “could get out of hand. It could get verbally abusive, it could get physically abusive at times,” she said.

    “They were intensely frightening,” according to the affidavit sworn by Lisa Cavanaugh, who boarded at the school for two years, beginning in 1987. “The only way to make it stop was to cry and to tell them that I accepted that I had sinned.”

    Cavanaugh, who was 14 when she entered the school, said that girls were often singled out during light sessions and “accused of being whores.”

    The statement of claim alleges that other abuses included putting students “on discipline,” periods of excessive or abusive punishment during which children could be forbidden to speak or forced to perform tasks like scrubbing the kitchen with a toothbrush or cleaning out grease traps with their hands.

    Richard Van Dusen, who was a boarding student for two years beginning in 1979 when he was 18, swore in his affidavit that when two teachers found out he bought a younger pupil a case of beer, they bent him over a chair and beat him with a wooden paddle.
    Afterward his underwear was “soaked through with blood.”

    The Ontario Provincial Police investigated allegations of abuse at Grenville in 2007, but a spokesperson for the force told the Star that after consultation with the crown attorney, a decision was made not to press charges. The spokesperson couldn’t say why that decision was reached.

    The two men in charge of the school during the alleged abuses are no longer living — Haig died in 2009, and Farnsworth passed away in March 2015.

    Not everyone has bad memories of Grenville. Nine former students presented evidence in support of the school’s defence, denying there was abuse. David Webb, who attended the college from 1984 to 1987, said in an affidavit that staff exhibited “the kindest and most caring spirit imaginable” and pushed the students to achieve more they thought themselves capable of.

    Donald Farnsworth, Father Charles Farnsworth’s son, conceded in an affidavit he filed as part of the suit that Grenville was strict, but asserted “that was one of its strengths.”

    Donald attended grades nine to 13 at the college, and after graduating in 1976 went on to serve for two decades as a teacher and administrator at Grenville. In an interview, he said the school gave him “a fantastic education.”

    Even though Grenville staff sometimes “disciplined me in a way that I found painful at the time,” he said, “I am very grateful for the growth that I experienced.”

    With files from CTV’s W5.