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NWT, Nunavut deny allegations in sex abuse class action


The Northwest Territories and Nunavut governments are denying all allegations in a class action lawsuit by Nunavummiut who say they were sexually abused as children by a teacher.

The lawsuit, which a Nunavut judge allowed to proceed against the commissioners of both territories in June, is seeking damages for former students of Maurice Cloughley in Nunavut between 1969 and 1981. 

According to court documents, Cloughley was a teacher in several communities in the Northwest Territories – and what is now Nunavut – between 1959 and 1987. 

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In June 1995, he was charged with 22 sexual offences against some of his former students in the territories. In February 1996, he pleaded guilty to nine of those charges while the remaining 13 were stayed. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Alan Regel, one of the lawyers behind the class action, told Cabin Radio the lawsuit does not cover cases before 1969 as they fall under the federal Indian day school class action. Responsibility for education wasn’t transferred from Canada to the Northwest Territories until 1969.

Anyone in the Northwest Territories who claims they were abused by Cloughley after that date, has not been compensated, and wants to pursue a claim, can contact the law firms Cooper Regel or Morris Martin Moore for assistance. 

Regel said there are at least 50 members seeking damages in the class action. They claim that Cloughley sexually assaulted them or took pornographic photos of them when they were children or adolescents. 

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As a result, they allege, they have experienced physical and psychological pain, suffering and anguish; humiliation and betrayal; shame and embarrassment about their bodies; an inability to experience a normal life; and ongoing fear and anxiety that pornographic photos of them will surface and be viewed by others, including their children. 

“They will live the rest of their lives with the knowledge Cloughley, or others he may have shared their images with, may be viewing their images at any time,” court documents state. 

The statement of claim in the lawsuit alleges that the territorial commissioners were vicariously liable for the alleged abuse and resulting damages, were negligent in their supervision of Cloughley, and breached a duty of care and a fiduciary duty that they owed to the students. 

The document claims the government put Cloughley in a position where he would be “trusted, respected, and obeyed without question” and had “unrestricted and unquestioned” access to the class members. It claims the defendants failed to conduct any investigation into Cloughley’s background, put little restrictions on him, and failed to properly supervise him or put safeguards in place to ensure abuse could be detected, limited, or curtailed. 

In a statement of defence, representatives for the commissioners deny all of the allegations.

They deny Cloughley sexually exploited the class members and say if he did, it was never disclosed to them.

They say such abuse would not have been within the scope of Cloughley’s employment and was contrary to his work duties and responsibilities. Those would have been “independent acts for which he is solely responsible both in fact and law,” the defence’s document states.

The defendants claim any injuries, losses, or damages the class members suffered were not caused or contributed to by any breach, fault, or negligence on their part, but were caused by “some pre-existing or intervening act or cause unrelated to the allegations.”

The class members have proposed that a trial in the case be held in Iqaluit. 

Cloughley is not listed as a defendant in the lawsuit. Cabin Radio was unable to reach him for comment.

Cloughley was last known to be living in New Zealand in 2008. If he is still alive, he would be in his mid-80s.

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