Old Saskatchewan. private school students demand ban on controversial Christian curriculum
Former students of a private Christian school went to the Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly on Thursday to ask the government to ban a controversial type of program.
Caitlin Erickson and other alumni of Legacy Christian Academy in Saskatoon have gone through the Accelerated Christian Education, or ACE, program. They say it is still used in the province’s taxpayer-funded independent schools.
Erickson says the focus on fundamentalist religion has come at the expense of basic learning like math and spelling. A cited example includes the teaching that humans and dinosaurs co-existed on earth.
« The information in these textbooks is not scientifically accurate. Ultimately, it’s about getting a better education than we did, » Erickson said.
This was just one of the many concerns of former students. Erickson and dozens of others have filed felony assault and abuse charges against school and Legacy Church officials. They also filed a $25 million lawsuit.
The government has appointed an independent trustee to oversee the school, but students want the government to shut it down or at least suspend its more than $700,000 in annual taxpayer grants.
The students were allegedly subjected to widespread abuse, including exorcisms, solitary confinement and an extreme form of corporal punishment known as « paddling ».
They were hoping to meet Premier Scott Moe, who is also the MP for Erickson. This meeting did not take place, she said.
« It’s about children who never go through the kinds of things we’ve gone through, and we’ve had a lot of adults in positions of authority who failed us time and time again. Sitting in the legislature today feels like kind of a repeat of that,” Erickson said.
The students were invited to attend Thursday’s session by opposition MP Matt Love. He said the government must do much more to get justice for these former students, but also to protect current and future generations.
« A record of physical abuse, including paddling. A record of spiritual abuse, including exorcisms. A record of violating the human rights of children and young people. A record of curricula and teaching methods harmful to students and to their future success. A lesson in science against science,” Love said during Thursday morning’s legislative session.
« Will this minister stand up for this record and continue to fund this legacy of student abuse and harm? »
Education Minister Dustin Duncan said he was awaiting the results of various investigations before making a decision. He noted that he ordered the closure of a private Christian school linked to Legacy earlier this year after officials refused to cooperate with the appointed administrator.
Duncan said they were considering « strengthening the accountability » of independent private schools. This could mean a more detailed examination of the program, more visits by departmental officials or other measures.
« I expect the [provincial] curriculum is taught,” Duncan said.
Erickson said they showed Duncan a manual and raised concerns a month ago. When asked what he thought of the ACE program and manuals, Duncan replied, « I haven’t had a chance to look in depth. I just flipped through it. »
Duncan was asked if it was okay for schools to teach, for example, that dinosaurs and humans co-existed.
« Ultimately, however, parents have a choice. If they think their child is not getting an acceptable education, they don’t have to be there, » he said.