Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Suit alleges sex abuse at school decades ago

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Eight members of Nelson House First Nation are suing the federal government over alleged sexual abuse they suffered as children at the hands of a longtime teacher and principal at a one-room religious school.

The seven men and one woman, ranging in age from 50 to 76, allege they were repeatedly sexually molested by Roland Lauze when they attended the Nelson House Roman Catholic Day School, court documents show.

The school closed in the early 1970s.

The group seeks undisclosed financial damages for emotional, psychological and physical harm they say they suffered, a statement of claim filed in Manitoba's Court of Queen's Bench says.

The allegations have not yet been tested in court. No statement of defence has been filed.

Lauze died in February 1970, a few months after he retired from teaching and running the northern school, where he had worked since 1929.

A Free Press profile of Lauze said he was presented with a certificate honouring his decades of service, signed by then-Indian Affairs minister Jean Chrétien.

The former students say the incidents marred "virtually every aspect" of their lives and left them unable to seek legal redress until now. They say they suffered sexual trauma, physical pain, loss of self-esteem and "loss of enjoyment of life."

"They are still in the process of discovering and coming to understand and appreciate the harm suffered by the abuse and the injuries sustained," the lawsuit, co-authored by lawyers from Winnipeg and London, Ont., states.

"(They) require therapy, medical treatment and traditional healing."

As the owner and operator of the school, the federal government is vicariously liable, the lawsuit states. The government was negligent in several ways, including by failing to provide for adequate supervision of Lauze or offering a way for students to have their complaints and concerns heard, the lawsuit states.

A Free Press article from 1969 states Lauze went to work in Nelson House in 1929 and became a sports organizer, cooking teacher, choirmaster and violin instructor.

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 15, 2013 A5

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