Photo Credits: Courier Mail
Grenville Christian College is a former Anglican Diocese of Ontario affiliated private boarding school located in the rural community of Maitland, some 5 miles northeast of Brockville, Ontario. The campus was built in 1918 as St. Mary's College and it was purchased in 1969 by a group called Berean Christian Schools that began as a private school in 1969. St. Mary’s College was renamed Grenville Christian College in 1973. The college was closed in 2007, citing declining enrollment and unspecified financial pressures.
Ontario Superior Court Justice Janet Leiper said the school’s practices created an “abusive, authoritarian, and rigid culture which exploited and controlled developing adolescents” and awarded damages to students who lived on the premises between 1973 and 1997. Justice Janet Leiper said Thursday that the now-defunct Grenville Christian College will have to pay yet-to-be-determined damages to the former students.
Former students allege extreme humiliations. For example, Dan Michielsen said that two weeks after arriving at Grenville a staff member woke him up by punching him in the groin to punish him for talking in sleep. After similar experiences for four years in college, he said he was a ‘wreck’. Michielsen also said he was often berated by staff who called him ‘disgusting,’ ‘evil,’ a ‘pig,’ and a ‘mutt.’ Now 46, he says he has been left with debilitating self-esteem problems as a result of the alleged abuse.
According to Loretta Merritt, the lawyer representing former students in the lawsuit, the school policy was built on abuse.
It wasn’t about being complicit; it was active, intentional teaching. The headmasters of the school were doing this on purpose because they believed it was the way to God. So it wasn’t about a few rogue staff members going off and doing inappropriate things. This was the agenda. This was the agenda of the school; to get everybody in line.
Mental health expert Steve Hassan commented on one former student’s testimony:
In reading this complaint, it sounds like a number of themes have been touched upon here that have the characteristics of a destructive cult. The breaking down, forcing people to do behaviors that are denigrating, the language, the control of behavior, that if you’re not doing what the group wants, you’re violating God’s will. It’s certainly abusive personality control, and it’s very much an example of what I remember from the Community of Jesus.