Eighteen former students of a Christian academy in Canada have filed criminal abuse complaints against the school and an associated church, alleging that they were coerced into exorcisms and suffered corporal punishment.
Christian Centre Academy — which changed its name to Legacy Christian Academy in 2013 — has been accused of engaging in forced exorcisms and other abuse.
Following a 12-month investigation, Saskatoon police transferred the case to Crown prosecutors in April to address if potential charges will result from the complaints, as stated in emails from police that were addressed to students.
Nolin, who was 16 at the time, alleged that he was interrogated for hours in an office by the school's director after informants told the director Nolin identifies as gay.
Nolin claimed that the director not only wrongfully questioned him but also allegedly engaged in name-calling by labeling him "evil" and "an abomination."
In the culmination of the office visit, Nolin said he was suspended from the school and allegedly told they would try to "cure" him.
Three days later, according to Nolin, four educators visited him and his mother at home. Nolin claims they allegedly tried to perform an exorcism to cast out his "gay demons."
Nolin alleges that the school director was one of the four. The director is accused of bending Nolin over his lap and using a large wooden paddle to spank him, leaving bruises and a limp.
"That was one of the worst days of my life. Even now, just thinking about it, I go numb," said Nolin, who filed his complaint with Saskatoon police in July 2021.
Seventeen other students have filed complaints mentioning frequent paddlings, which reportedly occurred after Canada outlawed corporal punishment in schools.
"Every part of me wanted to walk to the police and simply pull down my pants and show them what was done to me," Sean Kotelmach, who attended the school from 1996 to 2008, told CBC.
"[But] I was scared. I was so scared. I worried my parents would get in trouble for sending me to that school."
In another complaint, a student named Christina Hutchinson told Global News about when she was an 8-year-old attending Christian Centre Academy and unwillingly endured alleged spankings and treatment which she said mirrored that of an "exorcism."
Hutchinson said she and other students were asked to recite a morning prayer in front of a school instructor. She said she refused to join because she was too nervous.
"The teacher at the time seemed to think that that meant I had a demon, so she would keep me in at break times and rock me in her lap while she spoke in tongues," Hutchinson was quoted as saying.
"It was an exorcism in the sense that she was trying to drive a demon out of me. I didn't know what she was doing, and I didn't have any control over it," she continued, mentioning that the teacher had labeled her "demon possessed."
The Christian Post reached out to Christian Centre Academy for a response to the allegations on multiple occasions. The school did not return comments by press time.
Christian Centre Academy and Mile Two Church, the congregation the school is tied to, sent a statement to Global News last week expressing heartbreak over the situation. Mile Two Church was previously known as the Saskatoon Christian Centre.
"We are all heartbroken to learn the stories of some former students about their experiences from over 15 years ago. The current staff and leadership are hearing some of these stories for the first time, and we condemn any acts of abuse that previous leaders committed," they stated.
The school and church also said that "the people that are accused of these actions are no longer here or affiliated with us in any way."
As the school continues to operate, some including the Saskatchewan New Democratic Party, have called on the academy to have its public funding frozen.
Saskatchewan's education ministry told Global News last week that it is aware of the allegations. Still, it noted that these incidents appeared to have occurred before the school began receiving public funds.
"It is our understanding, based (on) the accounts contained in the letter, that these allegations are in regards to incidents that took place in the 2000s," the government body said in a statement.
"Since LCA began receiving provincial funding, no complaints have been registered with the ministry against LCA and no irregularities have been found during routine inspections."
As the investigation remains pending, it's unknown when Crown prosecutors will make their final decision on each of the 18 complaints. A spokesperson would not make any official statements based on Crown's policy not to make statements on pending police investigations.
"While we can appreciate the desire for details regarding the situation, this remains an active investigation. In respecting that process, we are unable to offer you additional details at this time," a police spokesperson wrote in an email.
"In cases where police choose to seek an opinion from prosecutions related to an investigation, any advice provided is privileged communication."