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Governments deny allegations of negligence in class-action lawsuit involving former teacher

The governments of Nunavut and the NWT have filed a statement of defence denying any and all allegations of negligence pertaining to the class-action lawsuit involving former teacher Maurice Cloughley.

Cloughley pleaded guilty to nine sexual offences during a mid-trial plea bargain in 1996. NNSL file photo

The statement of claim alleges that these governments – the defendants – are responsible for the sexual abuse inflicted on children and youth who Maurice Cloughley taught between 1969 and 1981. He had taught in the communities of Clyde River and Resolute Bay.

However, the defendants are denying all allegations of sexual assault or exploitation by Cloughley against the plaintiffs – his former students.

The governments – combined under the GNWT during the dates in question because it was prior to the division of the territories – have stated no assault or exploitation by the teacher was ever disclosed to them at the time.

“Nor did the defendants, at any time, have knowledge of or cause to suspect the existence of such behaviour by Mr. Cloughley,” reads the statement of defence.

The territorial governments have also stated if the plaintiffs suffered any losses, damages or injury, it was “not caused by or contributed to by any breach, fault or negligence” from them. The statement claims “any such losses or damages were caused by some pre-existing or intervening act or cause unrelated to the allegations in the statement of claim.”

Cloughley pleaded guilty to nine sexual offences during a mid-trial plea bargain in 1996. He originally faced 22 counts. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

In June, Justice Paul Bychok found the defendants owed the plaintiffs, numbering at least 50, a fiduciary duty of care.

The defendants however, deny the existence of a fiduciary duty owed to the plantiffs.

Contrary to the statement of claim, the actions of Cloughley “did not occur within the scope of his employment and/or were contrary to his work duties or responsibilities,” according to the territorial governments.

The plaintiffs are seeking monetary compensation for the harm they allege was inflicted. This includes pain and suffering, setbacks in education and employment, and any expenses incurred for counselling and costs of future counselling, said Alan Regel, one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers.

The defendants deny that plaintiffs are entitled to any damages. Plaintiffs are being required to “strictly prove all claims for damages” and provide particulars for any and all claims for punitive damages, special damages and aggravated damages prior to trial.

Regel said, “Because it is a class-action, we will deal with common issues first such as if he (Cloughley) sexually assaulted any students, is the government liable? Did they have safeguards in place to prevent it?”

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