GROW­ING CRI­SIS

Toronto po­lice are in­ves­ti­gat­ing two more videos in an on­go­ing probe at St. Michael’s Col­lege School

The Peterborough Examiner - - Front Page - LIAM CASEY

TORONTO — An in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­le­ga­tions of as­sault and sex­ual as­sault at St. Michael’s Col­lege School has ex­panded af­ter po­lice said Tues­day they have re­ceived videos of two more in­ci­dents they be­lieve are re­lated to the pri­vate all-boys’ school in Toronto.

Insp. Domenic Si­nop­oli, the head of the Toronto po­lice sex crimes unit, said of­fi­cers were try­ing to iden­tify all the per­sons in the videos, one of which in­volved an as­sault with a weapon.

The sec­ond in­ci­dent was a threat, he said, not­ing that no one was in­jured.

“As it stands right now, we are in­ves­ti­gat­ing them as crim­i­nal of­fences, but that is not to say they are crim­i­nal of­fences,” he said at a news con­fer­ence.

The weapon used in the al­leged as­sault was a belt, Si­nop­oli said as he urged both vic­tims and wit­nesses to come for­ward.

“I would rather that the per­sons who have been vic­tim­ized or wit­nesses come to us rather than us com­ing to you,” he said.

The lat­est in­ci­dents bring to six the num­ber of cases un­der po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion that in­volve stu­dents of the Ro­man Catholic school that teaches grades 7 to 12.

Po­lice and the school have said two of those in­ci­dents in­volved an al­leged sex­ual as­sault.

Six teens from the school, aged 14 and 15, were ar­rested Mon­day and charged with as­sault, gang sex­ual as­sault, and sex­ual as­sault with a weapon in con­nec­tion with one of the in­ci­dents.

Five of the teens turned them­selves in to po­lice, while an­other one was ar­rested while on his way to school.

All six boys were re­leased on bail on Mon­day af­ter­noon. Their next court ap­pear­ance is on Dec. 19.

The school, whose fail­ure to promptly re­port the al­leged sex­ual as­sault to po­lice last week has come un­der crit­i­cism, said the re­cent in­ci­dents clearly in­di­cate it has “a prob­lem.”

The school had sched­uled a meet­ing with alumni Tues­day evening for an “open dis­cus­sion” about the scan­dal, said a for­mer St. Michael’s stu­dent who planned to at­tend.

“This is a pure teach­ing point and this stuff doesn’t just hap­pen at St. Michael’s,” he said. “It’s not the cul­ture of the school, it’s the cul­ture of so­ci­ety.”

La Rosa, who at­tended St. Michael’s from 1980 to 1985, stressed that the in­ci­dent of the al­leged sex as­sault “crossed the line.”

“I want to see alumni stand with the stu­dents and say ’this hap­pened here — we can’t just hope it goes away.’”

An­other for­mer stu­dent, John­Paul Bedard, was more pes­simistic about the alumni meet­ing. Late last week, Bedard came for­ward with his own al­le­ga­tions of vi­o­lent haz­ing when he was a stu­dent there in the 1980s.

“I haven’t been pleased with the re­ac­tion of the school,” he said.

Bedard said he has sent mes­sages to the school’s board of di­rec­tors and its prin­ci­pal about his haz­ing ex­pe­ri­ences with an of­fer to speak to stu­dents as an ad­vo­cate for sur­vivors of sex­ual vi­o­lence.

“Not one per­son at the school has even ac­knowl­edged the mes­sages,” Bedard said.

Po­lice have said they be­lieve there are more in­ci­dents and more videos.

St. Michael’s ex­pelled eight stu­dents and sus­pended an­other one in con­nec­tion with the al­leged sex­ual as­sault in a lock­er­room and an­other in­ci­dent that po­lice said in­volved haz­ing.

Both in­ci­dents were cap­tured on video. Po­lice sources have said the locker-room in­ci­dent in­volved a group of stu­dents pin­ning down an­other stu­dent and al­legedly sex­u­ally as­sault­ing him with a broom han­dle.

“We have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to keep our stu­dents safe, but our best ef­forts failed,” the school’s prin­ci­pal, Greg Reeves, told a news con­fer­ence late on Mon­day.

In an email to par­ents on Tues­day, the school said the vic­tims of the “hor­ren­dous acts” are be­ing sup­ported and cared for.

“We re­main fo­cused on our en­tire stu­dent body — their safety, care, and well-be­ing are our main pri­or­ity,” the school said.

The school has also set up an anony­mous tip line to help re­port “any in­ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­iours and in­ci­dents they have ex­pe­ri­enced, seen, or heard about at the school.”

St. Michael’s is run by the Basil­ian Fa­thers with roots dat­ing back to the Con­gre­ga­tion of St. Basil in France. The school is known for its ath­letic pro­grams, and more than 200 for­mer stu­dents have gone on to play for the NHL. The school said Tues­day all events in­volv­ing ex­ter­nal groups, sports teams, and pub­lic per­for­mances were be­ing can­celled for the re­main­der of the year.

CHRISTO­PHER KATSAROV THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

St. Michael’s Col­lege prin­ci­pal Gre­gory Reeves speaks to re­porters in Toronto on Mon­day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.