Sask. Ministry of Education criticized for inadequate response to complaints

A recent report from Saskatchewan’s ombudsman says the provincial Ministry of Education is unprepared to investigate complaints about registered independent schools.

It says the ministry has no process in place to record, investigate and report complaints about the independent schools it’s responsible for.

“Given its regulatory role, the ministry should anticipate receiving complaints related to independent schools,” the report said.

“Consequently, it is crucial for the ministry to have a well-established process in place to handle these complaints in a comprehensive, timely, impartial, and fair manner.”

In a statement to CTV News, the Ministry of Education said it “welcomes the opportunity to work in collaboration with the Saskatchewan Ombudsman in implementing and improving processes that promote the well-being of all Saskatchewan students and ensure their right to safe schools and quality education .”

The report came in response to an August 2022 complaint to the ombudsman from a former student of the Legacy Christian Academy, less than a month after more than a dozen students filed a class action lawsuit against staff at the school and the affiliated Mile Two Church.

There has been some argument over when the ministry was actually alerted to issues at the school.

In November, Education Minister Dustin Duncan said the ministry was not made aware of issues at Legacy Christian Academy until Aug. 9, when the lawsuit was filed.

An Aug. 4 letters shared by former student Caitlin Erickson contradict that claim.

The letter, signed by Duncan, thanks Erickson for letting the ministry know about the allegations, thanks the “brave individuals” for coming forward, and encourages any incidents of abuse to be “shared with the proper authorities.”

Former Legacy student Mark Drapak said the ministry also received complaints in 2016 and 2018, and did nothing.

The ministry declined to comment on what specific deficiencies the ombudsman identified with how the Legacy students’ complaint was processed.

Through the ombudsman report, “the ministry acknowledged that it lacked reporting and investigation guidelines for addressing complaints related to registered independent schools,” and that it “had only documented two serious complaints, both of which were referred to the police.”

A fair complaints process should include clear guidelines on how to submit complaints, a description of how it will be reviewed, and an explanation of possible outcomes for citizens making a complaint, the ombudsman report says.

-With files from Wayne Mantyka

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