The Grenville Christian College Class Proceeding
UPDATE: September 1, 2023
We are pleased to announce that a proposed Settlement has been reached in the Grenville Christian College (“GCC”) Class Action: Cavanaugh et al. v. Grenville Christian College et al.
The class action lawsuit was commenced in 2008 by and on behalf of former boarding students of GCC, (who boarded/attended between September 1973 and July 1997). It took many years before the lawsuit was determined to be allowed to proceed by way of class action (“certified”), and many more years to make its way through a common issues trial and appeal therefrom.
The lawsuit alleged (and the Ontario Superior Court in 2020, and the Ontario Court of Appeal in 2021 have since affirmed) that GCC utilized practices and policies which amounted to child abuse: they created an environment of control, intimidation and humiliation that fostered and inflicted enduring harms on its students.
Rather than proceed with the next stage of the class action: determining each individual class member’s damages separately (via trials or some other adversarial process), the parties were able to reach an agreement to settle the action for all Class Members.
The Settlement is intended to provide closure and support for healing for Class Members. The financial compensation under the Settlement is meant to serve a symbolic function in acknowledging the harms endured by the Class Members. Key elements of the Settlement are that Class Members will not be subjected to an adversarial adjudicative process and the claims program is confidential and document-based (i.e. completion of a claim form and/or other documents is all that is required and those claims a determined by a third-party Claims Administrator – the Defendants will not play any part in determining compensation for eligible claimants).
Settlement Agreement: Final Executed Settlement Agreement w Schedules – dated July 13, 2023
Before the Settlement can be implemented, it has to be approved by the Court. The Court will consider if it is fair, reasonable and in the best interests of class members. Settlement Approval Hearing is scheduled for November 16, 2023 (Virtual Hearing).
If you want to participate and make a claim in the Settlement if it is approved, you DO NOT need to take any steps at this time, a Notice will be sent to you after the approval with instructions on how to file a claim in the Settlement (including accessing Claim Forms and deadlines, etc.)
If you do not think the Settlement is fair, reasonable, or in the best interests of the Class Members, or you object to the amount of legal fees that are being sought, you can submit an objection for the Court to consider at the approval hearing.
If you wish to object to the proposed Settlement, you must submit a written statement to Settlement Class Counsel on or before October 31, 2023, 11:59pm EST, proving the following information: (a) Full name and contact details, (b) Confirmation of Class Membership (i.e. Years of attendance and boarding at Grenville Christian College), (c) a brief statement of the nature of and reason for the objection towards the Settlement Agreement, and (d) if the you wishes to also make submissions to the Court in person at the Settlement Approval Hearing, you must email Settlement Class Counsel by the Objection Deadline to advise of same.
Your legal rights and options – and the deadlines to exercise them – are explained in more detail in the short-form Notice of Settlement Approval Hearing and long-form Notice of Settlement Approval Hearing. Please read these documents carefully.
For more information, please contact us, by email at: email@example.com, or call Christina Noble, Law Clerk (toll-free) at: 1-800-261-4844 ext. 7343.
Note: The Claims process will not begin unless/until the Settlement is approved by the Court. If the Court refuses to approve the Settlement, the Class Action will continue, and the Individual Issues Stage will commence (where a process for determining compensation for specific damages caused by the wrongdoing established at the Common Issues Trial are determined separately for each Class Member).
UPDATE: May 2, 2023
In August 2022, we met with the Court to discuss how the next steps in this lawsuit would proceed. The next steps involve determining the damages and compensation of each individual Class Member as it relates to their experiences at GCC and the impact those experiences have had on their lives since. We are now in the process of finalizing the next steps and will contact you in the coming months to share additional details.
As previously mentioned, although the final details have not yet been set by the Court, what we can tell you is that there will be a short window of opportunity to decide whether or not you ‘d like to come forward and have your damages and/or compensation assessed in respect of your GCC experiences. Rather than wait for that deadline to tick-away, if you haven’t already contacted us to advise of your intent to pursue the claim further, please consider doing so now. You may also want to consider starting to prepare an Impact Statement, outlining your experiences at GCC and the impact of those experiences have had on your life since leaving GCC. These statements will assist us in helping you develop your claim for damages/compensation in the next phase.
UPDATE: October 20, 2022
In August, we met with the Court to discuss how the next steps in this lawsuit would proceed. The next steps involve determining the damages and compensation of each individual Class Member as it relates to their experiences at GCC and the impact those experiences have had on their lives since.
The Court put forward a draft plan for the parties to consider. The final plan will be settled in late-January 2023. The details of this plan, along with deadlines for participating in it will likely be posted in the early spring of 2023.
In the meantime, although the final details have not yet been set by the Court, what we can tell you is that there will be a short window of opportunity to decide whether or not you ‘d like to come forward and have your damages and/or compensation assessed in respect of your GCC experiences. Rather than wait for that deadline to tick-away, if you haven’t already contacted us to advise of your intent to pursue the claim further, please consider doing so now. You may also want to consider starting to prepare an Impact Statement, outlining your experiences at GCC and the impact of those experiences have had on your life since leaving GCC. These statements will assist us in helping you develop your claim for damages/compensation in the next phase.
UPDATE: March 24, 2022
We have met with the Case Management Judge multiple times since January 2022 to discuss how the next stage of this class action (assessment of damages) will proceed. We are working on a formal proposal respecting that process, and will present it to the Court for its approval in August 2022. Once we have the Court’s decision, a formal Notice will be issued, setting out the details of those next steps, the timelines and other requirements for participation therein.
In the meantime, if you have not already provided us with your statements respecting your experiences at GCC and the impacts of those experiences on your life, please consider doing so sooner rather than later.
UPDATE: January 5, 2022
The defendants have not filed an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. As such, a Case Management Conference has been scheduled with the case management judge in mid-January to discuss how the next steps will proceed.
We will post an update explaining the next-steps over the coming weeks.
UPDATE: November 1, 2021
Systemic Negligence verdict upheld – School’s appeal of common issues trial judgment denied!
The Ontario Court of Appeal released its decision October 26, 2021, confirming the common issues trial judgement. The Honourable Justice van Rensburg, writing the decision for the Ontario Court of Appeal, confirmed the trial judge’s finding that the School was systemically negligent in its operation, and its practices breached the standards of the day and were harmful to students.
While a wonderful victory for the plaintiffs and class, this does not mean the class action is at an end.
While the defendants do not automatically have the right to seek an appeal of this decision from the Supreme Court of Canada, they do have the right to ask permission to do so (within 60 days of the release of the Ontario Court of Appeal’s decision). We have not yet been notified of their seeking leave.
We will continue to post updates and explain next-steps on this website over the coming weeks.
UPDATE: July 1, 2021
The Appeal of the trial decision was heard by a panel of appellate judges on May 4, 2021, via Zoom. The Appeal Court has reserved its judgement and has not yet released its decision.
UPDATE: March 29, 2021
We have now filed our responding appeal materials, (links to those materials are below). As previously noted, the appeal has been scheduled for May 4, 2021. The appeal will involve the lawyers for both sides making their legal arguments to a panel of appellate judges (no testimony or witnesses are part of this process).
At this time, the appeal is most likely to be heard remotely by Zoom video conference. We don’t yet have those Zoom details. If you wish to view the hearing, please contact us and we will provide you with the Zoom details (once we receive same).
UPDATE: January 12, 2021
We have now received our appeal date. The appeal has been scheduled for May 4, 2021. The appeal may very likely be heard remotely by Zoom video conference.
UPDATE: September 18, 2020
The defendants’ appeal has finally been delivered and filed with the Court of Appeal. Below are links to their appeal documents. We have also included links to the full transcripts of all the witnesses from the trial (as opposed to just the excerpts selected by the defendants).
We are working on a response and will post our materials on this website as well, once it has been filed with the Court of Appeal.
We do not yet have a date set for the Appeal, nor do we know the manner in which that appeal will proceed (i.e. in-person or virtually). Once those details have been determined, we will advise.
Amended Notice of Motion (The basis on which the defendants say their appeal is appropriate)
Factum (The arguments the defendants make to justify their request for an appeal of the trial decision).
Volume 1 – September 16, 17 and 18, 2019
Volume 2 – September 19, 20 and 23, 2019
Volume 3 – September 24 and 25, 2019
Volume 4 – September 26, 27 and 30, 2019
Volume 5 – October 1 and 2, 2019
Volume 6 – October 3 and 4, 2019
Volume 7 – October 7 and 8, 2019
Volume 8 – October 9 and 11, 2019
Volume 9 – October 15, 16 and 17, 2019
UPDATE: March 25, 2020
The defendants have decided to appeal the trial decision. Below is a link to their Notice of Appeal. We are working on a response and when completed, will post it on the website, once it’s been filed with the Court of Appeal.
Normally, the parties would have about 60 days each to gather up their documents and draft their arguments to support their positions on the appeal. Given the current COVID-19 pandemic, the government has suspended timelines in respect of, among other things, appeals such as this. As a result, we are unsure at this time when the appeal will go forward. As we learn more, we will be sure to provide an update on this website.
UPDATE: February 27, 2020
We are pleased to announce that the common issues trial was a success.
This decision establishes Grenville’s wrongdoing generally. This decision may or may not be appealed, which will determine when the next steps in the class action can go forward.
Those next steps involve determining what compensation is awardable based on this finding of general wrongdoing (if any) and the process by which specific damages of individual class members are determined.
We will be seeking guidance from the Court to set up the processes for these determinations. Once those processes have been established, we will communicate when and how class members should come forward to take part in these next steps.
UPDATE: September 13, 2019
The common issues trial in this action is starting on Monday September 16th, 2019 at 330 University Ave. It is scheduled for 5 weeks. We will start in court room 8-1 for the first two weeks and court room 8-2 thereafter. Court usually begins at 10:00 a.m. each day.
Our trial judge is Justice Leiper.
There will be an order excluding witnesses with exceptions for the Representative Plaintiffs and experts. This means witnesses are not allowed to sit in the court room and listen to other witnesses testifying, nor is anyone allowed to discuss the testimony of any witness with other witnesses.
Anyone who is not a witness is free to attend the trial. The Judge will explain all this at the outset of trial and there will be a notice posted on the court room door.
What is a Common-Issues Trial?
The lawsuit against GCC is proceeding as a “class action”, which means the legal process is different than a “regular” lawsuit. A “regular” lawsuit is one that is brought by and on behalf of a specific individual(s) only. A “class action” lawsuit is brought forward by representatives who stand-in for an entire group of persons (whether or not they come forward initially): in our case, the class is defined as students who attended and boarded at GCC between 1973 and 1997.
In a regular lawsuit, when you get to trial, that trial is the final stage: it determines both the question of wrongdoing and the consequence for that wrongdoing (i.e. awards damages to the wronged person). A class action lawsuit breaks up this trial process into multiple trials. The first trial is known as the “trial of the common issues”. At the common-issues trial, only the common legal questions are determined – usually focussing on the question of wrongdoing, in a general sense.
The trial in this lawsuit that is set to commence on September 16, 2019 is the common-issues trial. At this trial, five common-issues will be determined. Those five issues all essentially speak to GCC’s wrongdoing: whether or not GCC’s actions/policies/practices were below the legal standard of care applicable over the time period (as compared to a reasonable boarding school) and if so, does this amount to them having breached the legal duties of care they owed their students.
If we succeed at this trial – meaning the judge determines that GCC’s actions fell below the standard of care and as a result GCC breached its legal duties to students – the next trial or trials will address the consequences of that wrongdoing: the damages/compensation owed to the students as a result of the wrongdoing. How those damages will be assessed is yet to be determined. It may be determined wholly or partially by a single trial whereby aggregate damages can be determined on behalf of all class members, and/or individual trials whereby each affected class member will have to come forward to have their specific impact/damages assessed by the Court (or some combination of both).
September 16 marks the beginning of the trial process in this class action lawsuit, it is not the end.
We do not need class members to come forward or “register” at this time: the time to come forward, if one already hasn’t done is, is after this trial, if we are successful.
UPDATE – MAY 18, 2018
The trial of common issues is scheduled to proceed for twenty four days, commencing on September 16, 2019. The following common issues will be addressed at that trial:
- Did the Defendants owe a duty of care to the Plaintiffs?
- Did the Defendants breach the duty of care owed to the Plaintiffs?
- Did the Defendants owe fiduciary obligations to the Plaintiffs?
- Did the Defendants breach their fiduciary obligations to the Plaintiffs?
- Does the conduct of the Defendants merit an award of punitive damages?
Only after this trial and the determination of these issues, will the individual damages claims proceed. The manner in which those individual claims proceed will be determined following the common issues trial.
At this time, there is nothing for class members to do. If we require your assistance in the trial, we will be in touch.
A class action has been commenced by former students of the Grenville Christian College seeking damages for psychological, physical and sexual abuse. The Statement of Claim was issued in the Superior Court of Justice in Toronto on January 17, 2008 and amended in January 2009 and in March 2010. In the action, the former students of the Grenville Christian College seek a declaration that the defendants have breached their fiduciary obligations owed to the plaintiffs in the operation of the Grenville Christian College as well as compensation and/or damages for breach of fiduciary duty, negligence, battery and intentional infliction of mental suffering in the amount of $200 million. The claim also seeks punitive, exemplary and/or aggravated damages.
The proposed student class is defined as:
Students who attended and resided at the Grenville Christian College between September, 1973 and July, 1997, excepting the children and grandchildren of the individual defendants.
The proposed representative plaintiffs are:
- Lisa Cavanaugh, Andrew Hale-Byrne, Richard Van Dusen, Timothy Blacklock and Margaret Granger.
The defendants in the action are:
- 226937 Ontario Limited carrying on business as Grenville Christian College, i.e. the company that operated the school;
- The Incorporated Synod of the Diocese of Ontario;
- Charles and Betty Farnsworth; and
- Alastair Haig.
The Judge assigned to manage this case is Perell J.
Orders and Endorsements:
On June 27, 2008, Justice Perell issued an Order adjourning, on terms, the previous injunction related to the potential sale of the Grenville Christian College property. The Order permits a sale of the property and limits the payment of sale proceeds to specific parties.
The Mareva Injunction was heard on April 22, 2009. Pursuant to the Order of Perell J., this motion was further adjourned on terms. The interim injunction of June 28 2008 was dissolved. Grenville can pay only approved and legitimate business expenses, and any proceeds of sale of the property must be held in trust by the Defendants’ counsel.
Chris Haber has joined us as co-counsel on the case. Accordingly, his separate action has been stayed by the court, and Timothy Blacklock added as a representative Plaintiff. The title of proceeding was amended accordingly as per the order below.
On February 18, 2009, the Defendants brought a motion to the court for leave to examine Al Haig. The Plaintiffs consented to this Order on terms, most of which were granted by Justice Perell.
On March 2, 2009, the Defendants brought a motion to strike out the Plaintiffs Statement of Claim. While they were not successful in having the entire claim struck, Perell J. did strike out a number of paragraphs, granting leave to amend some.
On October 26, 2009 the Plaintiffs appealed the March 4, 2009 Order of Perell J. to the Ontario Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal held that several paragraphs ought not to have been struck out and they were therefore restored to the Claim. The Court also granted the Plaintiffs’ leave to amend their Claim in respect of the theory that the Defendants committed to educate the children in accordance with the Anglican faith and breached their duty to do so which resulted in harm to the Plaintiffs.
Statements of Defence
In its Crossclaim, the Diocese of Ontario claims for contribution and indemnity as against Grenville Christian College, Charles Farnsworth, and J. Alastair Haig.
The remaining defendants must deliver a Statement of Defence or may wait to see whether the action is certified before doing so. It is always open to the parties at any stage, even as early as shortly after the issuance of the statement of claim, to meet for the purpose of trying to resolve the law suit. Any settlement, whenever achieved, must be approved by the Court to ensure that it is a fair and reasonable settlement.
From June through September 2011 cross-examinations were conducted for the motion to certify this Action as a Class Proceeding.
The certification motion was heard by Justice Perell in Toronto on April 30 & May 1, 2012. For the Action to be certified as a class proceeding, the Plaintiffs must satisfy all of the requirements of the 5-part test under the Class Proceedings Act. On a certification motion, the court will determine whether a class action is the preferred and appropriate method of proceeding.
Justice Perell’s Reasons for Decision, delivered on May 23, 2012, included the following rulings:
- The Action should be dismissed as against The Incorporated Synod of the Diocese of Ontario; and
- Certification was denied on the basis that a class action was not the preferable procedure.
Justice Perell’s certification Reasons for Decision can be found here.
Appeal from Dismissal Order of Perell J.
The Plaintiffs’ appeal from the Order of Perell J. dismissing the action as against the Defendant, The Incorporated Synod of the Diocese of Ontario was dismissed by the Ontario Court of Appeal on March 8, 2013.
Plaintiffs’ Successful Certification Appeal
On January 13, 2014 the Plaintiffs’ successfully appealed the Order of Perell J. denying certification of this action as a class action. On February 24, 2014, Justices Kiteley, Rady and Whitaker of the Divisional Court set aside the May 23, 2012 Order of Justice Perell denying certification and unanimously held that the Action be certified as a class action.
On June 13, 2014 The Ontario Court of Appeal denied the Defendants’ leave to appeal the Order of the Divisional Court granting certification.
Notice of Certification to the Class
On September 16, 2014 Justice Perell issued an Order approving the notice of certification in this action. Notice to the class includes both a Short-Form Notice and a Long-Form Notice as well as an Opt Out Coupon which you will find in the links below. Please select from the links below to review the Order of Justice Perell, both the long and short form Notices to Class Members and the Opt Out Coupon. If you complete and submit the Opt Out Coupon this will remove you from the class proceeding and you will not receive any compensation arising out of any settlement or judgment in this class proceeding.
For any inquiries with respect to this class action, please contact us directly by email or by phone at 1-800-261-4844 ext. 7343. If corresponding by email, be sure to include your name, your telephone number and a brief message.