By Maryam Shah,
Toronto Sun, Thursday, November 20, 2014
TORONTO – Former students of a provincially run school for the blind, deaf-blind and visually impaired are hoping to find justice for alleged abuse and mistreatment that occurred in the past.
“I, along with other students, received abuse from the members of the school, namely the supervisory staff, teachers, guidance counsellors and other staff members who were responsible for our well-being,” alleged Bob Seed, 68, a former student of Brantford’s W. Ross MacDonald School for the Blind formerly known as the Ontario School for the Blind on the steps of Old City Hall Thursday.
Seed, who is visually impaired and now a radio station manager from Thunder Bay, is the lead plaintiff on a $200-million certified class-action lawsuit that has been launched. Anyone who attended or lived at the school from January 1951 until present day and who were alive as of Feb. 22, 2009 could qualify as a class member.
He described one particular year between 1962 to 1963 as a “year from hell.”
Seed alleges he was assaulted by a Grade 8 teacher for not knowing the answer to a math question.
“I reported the incident to the superintendent at the time and he did absolutely nothing,” Seed alleged. “Had this happened in today’s society, the teacher would most likely be fired right on the spot.”
He never confided in his parents because he was afraid they wouldn’t believe him, he added.
“This was the same situation with other students: They were frightened, they were petrified, they didn’t want to come forward and tell their stories for fear of being abused at a later date,” Seed said.
James Sayce, who works for Koskie Minsky LLP law firm representing the plaintiffs, estimated the suit could include 1,000 or more people.
The lawsuit alleges caregivers were unqualified, resulting in an abusive and intimidating environment.
In a statement of defence filed in 2012, the province of Ontario denied allegations that staff at the school treated students with “contempt, prejudice, indifference and abuse.”
“In fact, the teachers and counsellors who work and have worked at the school have been well-trained” and “been caring about the students,” the statement read.