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Estate of dead tutor ordered to pay Victoria man $2.3 million for sexual abuse

A judge has awarded a B.C. man $2.3 million for sexual abuse suffered at the hands of a retired teacher who served as a tutor after an introduction through an elementary school. (Matthew Howard/CBC - image credit)
A judge has awarded a B.C. man $2.3 million for sexual abuse suffered at the hands of a retired teacher who served as a tutor after an introduction through an elementary school. (Matthew Howard/CBC - image credit)

WARNING: This story contains disturbing details.

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has awarded more than $2.3 million to a Victoria man who claimed he was sexually abused by a retired teacher suggested as a tutor through his elementary school.

The teacher — Gary Redgate — died in July 2023, leaving his estate on the hook for damages, which include money for pain, suffering and the loss of future earnings for the victim, known as HN.

Justice Simon Coval tallied the $2.3 million award after hearing testimony in a Victoria courtroom from HN, a once-promising student whose trajectory the judge found was indelibly altered by the abuse he suffered as a child.

In a statement, HN said he was "encouraged" by the award, but disappointed the judge refused to hold the Victoria school district vicariously liable for abuse he claimed wouldn't have happened without his school's introduction.

"My goal in bringing this litigation has always been to ensure that this doesn't happen to another child," HN said.

"I am deeply disappointed that the court declined to hold the school board — the very institution that was responsible for introducing me to Redgate and the very institution that created the environment in which Redgate was enabled to abuse me — liable for Redgate's actions."

'A good opportunity for HN'

According to Coval's ruling, HN was introduced to Redgate in late 1999 or early 2000 when he was 11 years old and in Grade 6. HN was trying to write a novel — a project his mother discussed with her son's teacher.

"Given his academic strength, they both thought a tutor to help with the book was a good opportunity for HN to benefit from an enriched learning environment," the judgment says.

A student works at an Oxford Learning program in Toronto on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017.
A student works at an Oxford Learning program in Toronto on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017.

HN started meeting retired teacher Gary Redgate for tutoring sessions at his elementary school. Redgate later invited the boy to his home, where he was sexually abused. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

The teacher recommended Gary Redgate, a colleague he had known since 1969. The two men had stayed in touch over the years, becoming closer in the time leading up to the death of Redgate's wife in 1994.

The teacher said he raised the idea with the school principal and a colleague — both of whom thought it was a good idea.

"HN and Mr. Redgate met once a week during English class to work on HN's story. They went to an empty classroom for around 40 minutes to review drafts, with Mr. Redgate assisting with editing, grammar, and structure," the judgment says.

"In his spare time over the rest of the week, HN continued writing his story."

Redgate became more affectionate

Starting in March 2000, HN began going to Redgate's house — first to help with yard work, but later to discuss HN's book, watch movies and play cards.

The tutorials wrapped up at the end of Grade 6 in June 2000. The writing of HN's novel was also nearly complete.

The interior of a courtroom is shown at B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Jan. 25, 2022.
The interior of a courtroom is shown at B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Jan. 25, 2022.

A B.C. Supreme Court judge said the estate of the dead teacher should be held liable, but declined to extend the liability to the school district. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

"As it came to an end, Mr. Redgate became increasingly attached and infatuated. He was adamant that he wanted the relationship to continue," Coval wrote.

"HN recalled Mr. Redgate once calling him at home, drunk and upset, and threatening to end his own life. HN begged him not to."

Redgate began expressing romantic feelings, and giving HN "goodbye hugs" that extended to kissing.

"Mr. Redgate then asked to explore physical things with HN, which developed to the point that he would have HN lie on top of him," the decision says.

"Sometimes Mr. Redgate wore sweatpants and was erect, which HN found disgusting. Mr. Redgate said he wanted to show HN his penis and did so at least once."

The abuse stopped when HN was around 15 or 16, as did communication. HN said Redgate left a message at some point. Later, the boy "found a package at his door containing one of his shirts and his runners."

'They groom everyone around them'

Redgate's estate — represented by his stepson — didn't contest liability for his actions — only the amount needed to cover the damage.

In declining to hold the Greater Victoria school district liable, Coval said he was sticking to guidelines established by the Supreme Court of Canada, finding the abuse "insufficiently connected to any risk created by the school or its representatives.

"Essentially, this is because Mr. Redgate's abuse occurred, not during the tutorials organized by the school, but at Mr. Redgate's home in visits arranged between Mr. Redgate and HN and his family," Coval wrote.

HN's lawyer, Sandy Kovacs, said her client is considering appealing the decision not to hold the school district vicariously liable. She said the evidence showed HN was groomed — a process that began well before he ever stepped foot in Redgate's home.

"The challenge is, they don't just groom the child, they groom everyone around them," Kovacs told CBC.

"The mother gave evidence in this trial that she would never have let her child go to a strange man's home. The reason she did is because he was introduced as a retired teacher through the school."

The $2.3 million award included $225,000 for pain and suffering and nearly $2 million for unrealized earnings — a number the judge reached based on the possibility HN might have pursued a master's degree or doctorate had the abuse not soured him on education.