A Nunavut judge has ordered that the Government of Nunavut is liable for the sexual abuse that teacher Maurice Cloughley committed against young school children from the mid-to-late 1970s.
GN lawyers agreed that the territorial government should take responsibility for Cloughley’s crimes and that the court should side with the approximately 45 plaintiffs, according to the law firms of Cooper Regal and Morris Martin Moore.
Following Monday’s decision from Justice Susan Charlesworth, lawyers for both sides indicated that they’re hoping for the case to be settled soon, meaning damages will be paid to plaintiffs.
“This ruling is very important because we are in a much better bargaining position now that the court has agreed with us that the government is responsible,” said lawyer Lynn Moore, who represents the plaintiffs. “Our clients have been waiting for justice for years and are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Cloughley’s abuses occurred in remote communities between September 1974 and the spring 1979, in what was then the Northwest Territories. Following his 1996 trial, where he pleaded guilty to nine charges, the teacher was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his transgressions – sexual assaults, forced sexual contact and forcing students to pose nude for photographs.
The class-action lawsuit was approved in June 2020. Lawyers for the plaintiffs have argued that the government “failed to protect children and youth who attended schools.”
In a ruling that certified the class-action suit last year, Justice Paul Bychok wrote: “…government exercised colonial power over the Inuit and enforced it, in part, by armed authority… the authorities placed Mr. Cloughley in a position of real authority and power over his young Inuit charges. These Inuit children were extremely vulnerable by the very essence and structure of this student-teacher relationship. Mr. Cloughley abused his authority and power over these children.”