Sex abuse alleged at country’s oldest Bible school
Accuser claims more than 80 former students of Alberta facility say they were victims, too
THREE HILLS, Alta. • Canada’s oldest Bible school is under investigation by the RCMP after a former student came forward claiming she and dozens of other children were abused by staff as far back as the 1950s and as recently as five years ago.
Linda Fossen, 53, filed a complaint with RCMP earlier in the week, alleging years of sexual abuse at the hands of her father, who at the time, was a part-time employee at the Prairie Bible Institute, in Three Hills, Alta., about 100 kilometres northwest of Calgary. A second victim has since come forward to the school principal, Mark Maxwell.
On Saturday, Maxwell said he had been approached by a woman claiming sexual abuse at the school 35 years ago.
“There would appear to be an abuse victim,” he said. “In other words, I’ve got her name, and someone on staff that she has identified ... We may have a real situation.”
Maxwell, who was in Ontario over the weekend, said he plans to address the issue on Monday when he returns.
“We’ll find out where (that staffer) is, and we’ll start going down that road,” he said. “It’ll be up to the (alleged) abuse victim what they want to do.”
Maxwell said he’ll approach police only with that person’s consent.
As for Fossen, she began her crusade in 2008 after publishing a memoir about her ordeal. Because of that book, she claims more than 80 for- mer students have told her that they, too, were victims of sexual, emotional and physical abuse.
She says administrators at the time — eager to keep the institute’s polished image clean — covered up years of sadistic abuse, dismissed allegations of sexual assault and kept a known pedophile on staff.
And, she claims, deference to the school’s succession of admired, authoritarian leaders allowed it to happen.
She is now pushing the Insti- tute to acknowledge the abuse and reconcile with its victims — or risk litigation.
Already on the financial brink, the allegations could prove a fatal blow to the school, which began as a class of eight children in an abandoned farmhouse in 1922.
Fossen, who now lives in Florida, filed a complaint with police this week in which she says her father sexually assaulted her repeatedly. The abuse began in the early 1960s and escalated when he began studying and working part- time at PBI, she claims.
In 2006, her PBI high school class contacted her about a reunion. “I revealed to them that I had been abused and, one by one, kids in my class contacted me and said: ‘I was too.’ I was just stunned,” she said.
Most of the alleged victims, Fossen claims, were children of former PBI staff members.
Fossen said she doesn’t want the school to close, and seeks no fiduciary reward for her pain. Rather, she and two other alumnae started a Facebook group to encourage other victims to come forward.