School District 57 and one of its former employees have been named in civil lawsuits filed by three former students who say they were sexually abused by a teacher.
Michael Bruneau, Brett McLachlan and Ed Squire have filed for damages in the millions, saying they were sexually abused by Wendall Diakiw.
Bruneau and Squire were part of a criminal case filed against Diakiw, who taught at Austin Elementary School in the 1970s and 80s. Diakiw was sentenced to five years in prison in 1988 for sexual offenses against six former students. He was convicted of gross indecency, sexual assault and indecent assault.
Ed Squire was 9 years old when he says the abuse began. The suit is a bid for closure.
“It’s really just another step in my journey to recovering and to understanding how this affected my life. When you’re carrying this kind of a load all your life, as I’ve learned from other survivors, you’re not yourself, your life isn’t what it should be. I’m looking for normalcy and help, is what I’m looking for with this lawsuit. If I ignore this, I’m going to miss very important part of recovering and getting healthy.”
The suits allege that Diakiw groomed the plaintiffs and gained their trust. In addition to being on staff at Austin, Diakiw taught piano lessons and frequently offered to drive his pupils home.
Squire says he’s mostly motivated by the thought of other survivors.
“You can talk about justice and what’s due and what’s owed and who’s responsible or how did it happen – laying responsibility on people. Those are parts and pieces of the whole thing but that’s not what I’m ultimately looking for out of it. I would love for any other boys – who are obviously now men – not have to hide this the rest of their lives and know there’s safety in coming out, other people are moving forward with that. If I can be a part of encouraging anybody else to do that, it’s very important to me.”
But including the school district in the suit is about accountability, Squire says.
“When a person in trust has violated that, I think it’s important that that’s addressed. How did this happen and is there any way we can prevent that from happening again in future?”
Aaron Lealess is a personal injury lawyer representing all three men. He says they’re hoping members of the public will come forward with information about Diakiw and his time as a teacher in Prince George.
“In these types of historical cases, usually each individual victim – it happens at such a young age – they only know one small piece of the puzzle. So it’s only from hearing from other victims of abuse and the people who saw or suspected abuse – people like the school janitor, the secretary, other teachers who were around Diakiw at the time, parents. Maybe there’s some children who were talking about it and parents overheard or maybe a victim told their parents. If there’s anybody in the Prince George community or someone who may have moved away from Prince George who is aware of this and has some information about Diakiw, we would love to hear from them.”
School District 57 has declined to comment on the suit at this time. Neither they nor Diakiw have yet filed a response to the claims.
None of these allegations have been proven in court.
Published on April 6, 2017