Saskatoon city councillor Donauer files affidavit denying allegations in $25M Christian school abuse lawsuit

A Saskatoon city councillor named in a proposed $25-million class-action lawsuit denies he participated in or knew of any abuse happening at a private Christian school.

Randy Donauer, the longtime city councillor for Ward 5, is named as a defendant in the lawsuit against Legacy Christian Academy (formerly Christian Centre Academy), Mile Two Church (formerly Saskatoon Christian Centre) and employees and associates of the institutions.

Earlier this year, he filed an affidavit in which he denies the allegations against him.

The proposed class action, filed almost two years ago with what was then called Saskatoon's Court of Queen's Bench, initially named nearly two dozen officials. Donauer was later added to the list of defendants.

The proposed class-action lawsuit was launched by former students after a CBC News investigation revealed 18 former students from the same academy had filed criminal complaints against school staff members. In October 2022, a lawyer representing the class said 50 students had signed on to the proposed class-action lawsuit.

Donauer has now filed a sworn affidavit with King's Bench Court in Saskatoon in response to the plaintiffs' statement of claim. The affidavit, filed at Saskatoon King's Bench court, is dated Feb. 27, 2024, but came to light this week following a CTV report.

Donauer filed the affidavit in support of a request for more information from the plaintiffs.

In the affidavit, Donauer denies each allegation made against him in the lawsuit.

"I have no knowledge of the physical, psychological, emotional and religious abuse that was allegedly suffered at my hands," Donauer said in the affidavit.

Donauer has served in various roles at the church. The lawsuit alleges he struck students with a large wooden paddle and helped develop and enforce policies around corporal punishment.

Allegations in the lawsuit have not been tested in court. The class action has not been certified by the courts.

Other allegations in the lawsuit — not necessarily involving Donauer — include coercion, traumatizing rituals and solitary confinement that students say they experienced during their time at the school.

Donauer denies the lawsuit's allegation that he helped develop and enforce the school's corporal punishment policies.

"I have no knowledge of (i.) the policies and procedures that I was allegedly instrumental in developing and implementing; and (ii.) the role I allegedly played in the development and implementation of these policies and procedures," Donauer said in the affidavit.

Two former students of Christian Centre Academy allege Donauer hit them with a large wooden paddle in a discipline process known as paddling. One former student says Donauer paddled them nearly a dozen times, sometimes while the student's pants were off.

In a police statement, one student said the abuse occurred in the summer of 2003 when he was 16 years old working as a counsellor at a Bible camp run by Saskatoon Christian Centre.

John Olubobokun is on trial this week at Saskatoon provincial court on nine counts of assault with a weapon, related to his time as the director at Legacy Christian Academy, formerly known as Christian Centre Academy.
John Olubobokun's trial at Saskatoon provincial court related to his time as the director at Legacy Christian Academy began last month. The trial was adjourned to the fall. (Travis Reddaway/CBC)

A number of other people named in the civil suit have been charged or convicted of offences in connection to the abuse allegations.

Aaron Benneweis, a former coach and athletic director at the school, pleaded guilty to sexual assault and sexual exploitation and was sentenced to two years less a day for the offences that began in 2008 and continued until 2012.

Duff Arthur Friesen, a former principal, and John A. Olubobokun, a former director of the school, have pleaded not guilty to multiple assault charges. Olubobokun's trial started last month but was adjourned until the fall.

Former director and vice-principal Ken Schultz has also denied allegations of assault with a weapon and sexual assault and is awaiting trial.