Premier Scott Moe says he is confident his government is handling the Legacy Christian Academy situation appropriately.
More than 30 former students have made accusations of abuse and mistreatment, with victims filing a lawsuit this week that names nearly two dozen officials with the former Saskatoon Christian Centre Church and the Christian Centre Academy, now renamed Legacy Christian Academy, as well as others whose names are not yet public.
Speaking about the scandal for the first time on Friday morning at a resettlement event in Regina for recently arrived Ukrainian evacuees, Moe said while everyone should be troubled by the allegations, he is confident changes announced by Education Minister Dustin Duncan on Thursday will make sure students are protected at all schools.
"The regulatory changes that were made yesterday in the way of oversight — in the way of increased inspections that are going to be present in our qualified independent schools — are purely focused on ensuring that we are doing everything that we can as a government to ensure the safety of our children," he told reporters.
Those regulatory changes include appointing an administrator for the three independent schools in the province, including Legacy, that employ former Legacy staff named in the lawsuit.
Independent schools will now receive 10 unscheduled inspection visits by the ministry a year, up from three.
As well, all qualified independent schools are now required to notify the ministry within 24 hours if they face allegations of criminal activity or a criminal charge affects a staff member. Cabinet ministers have also granted Duncan greater authority to deal with independent schools, including the ability to put them on probation.
Some of Legacy Christian Academy's alleged victims and community members have called for the school's public funding to be frozen. That includes NDP education critic Matt Love
"This government's first priority should be ensuring the safety of our children," Love said Thursday. "To neither shut off the tap to Legacy Christian Academy, nor remove alleged abusers from positions of authority is an utter failure of leadership. Safety of our children is paramount — there's no room for half-measures and passing the buck."
Love said the education minister took too long to step in, noting that students contacted his office in June.
"We know they have receipts that he was emailed in June," he said. "These allegations became public nine days ago. Why did we have to wait nine days to hear from the minister about this?"
Moe insisted he has confidence in the government's actions to date. And despite the issues at Legacy, he says independent schools will continue to play an important part in Saskatchewan's education system.
"We're going to continue to provide the choice for parents … on where they're going to send their children here in the province," the premier said.