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Dental therapist abuse case broadens

More plaintiffs and possibly more offenders are emerging in a longstanding civil suit involving a now deceased dental therapist who molested children.

Joseph Scozzari/Wikimedia Commons photo
Twelve residents in Iglulik are part of a civil suit against the Government of Canada, and now two people in Cambridge Bay have stepped forward to make a claim. All accuse convicted dental therapist Daniel Nahogaloak, who died last year, of sexual assault. Others say they were victimized, too, but by different dental workers, according to lawyer Alan Regel.

Two people alleging sexual assault at the hands of convicted dental therapist Daniel Nahogaloak have stepped forward in Cambridge Bay, according to lawyer Alan Regel. They join 12 Iglulik plaintiffs seeking damages from the Government of Canada, which trained Nahogaloak as a dental therapist through Health Canada in the 1980s.

Regel, who visited Cambridge Bay in July, said he was contacted by people who say they were sexually assaulted by others in the dental field at different times in other communities, allegations that he will also investigate.

"It is shocking, however, to see how widespread this particular type of abuse is, in terms of the profession and the communities," stated Regel, who's with the firm Ahlstrom Wright Oliver & Cooper.

Nahogaloak, from Cambridge Bay, was sentenced to one year in jail on Oct. 15, 1986, following a plea bargain that reduced his four counts to a single sexual assault conviction.

He worked in Iglulik, Cambridge Bay and Taloyoak in the early 1980s, when he would have been close to 30 years old.

While in Iglulik in 1984, Nahogaloak set up dental therapy appointments at the nursing station, where he proceeded, without any other adults present, to sexually assault the children, according to Regel.

"It came to a head when one of the children complained to the school," he said. "Nahogaloak admitted sexually touching almost all female patients who came for dental therapy during a span of several months."

The victims' psychological trauma included a subsequent fear of dental workers, resulting in deteriorating dental health, Regel noted.

The two individuals in Cambridge Bay who expressed interest in filing a claim in the civil suit "did not come forward earlier as they thought they were the only person Nahogaloak did this to," Regel said.

There were attempts to question Nahogaloak in regards to the civil suit, filed against the Government of Canada in 2009, but he died in December 2016 at age 63.

When contacted by Nunavut News/North, Health Canada issued a brief statement in regards to the case.

"Health Canada takes the issue of sexual abuse and violence very seriously. As the plaintiffs’ allegations are before the court, it would be inappropriate to comment any further," wrote Maryse Durette, Health Canada's senior media relations adviser.

Regel said it hasn't yet been determined how much will be sought in damages.

"It's always up in the air until the court looks at all the circumstances," he said. "You really can't put a number on it because it depends on so many variables."