Alleged sex abuse: Ex-student files lawsuit against Acadia Divinity College in N.S.

By The Canadian Press

HALIFAX — A former student at Acadia Divinity College has filed a lawsuit against the school in Wolfville, N.S., alleging she was sexually abused by one of her professors while she was receiving mental health counselling between the fall of 1989 to August 1991.

In the plaintiff’s statement of claim, filed Dec. 21 with the Nova Scotia Supreme Court, the woman claims the school is vicariously liable for the alleged abuse.

College president Rev. Anna Robbins issued a statement Wednesday saying the allegations are disturbing and the school is taking the matter very seriously. She said she had just learned about the lawsuit and that it would be inappropriate to offer further comment. 

None of the allegations has been tested in court.

The lawsuit, which is seeking unspecified damages, alleges the student was abused by Rev. Dennis Veinotte, who was employed as a professor by the college — the seminary of the Canadian Baptists of Atlantic Canada and Acadia University’s faculty of theology. Veinotte, who died in March 2012, is alleged to have cultivated a relationship of trust with the student, who was in the master of divinity program until she left in 1991.

The lawsuit alleges the assaults took place on the school’s property while Veinotte was employed by Acadia Divinity College.

“While in the capacity of the plaintiff’s professor and counsellor, Rev. Veinotte subjected the plaintiff to numerous instances of sexual assault and battery,” the lawsuit alleges. 

The professor “seized upon the plaintiff’s vulnerabilities” and used his position of authority to create a safe environment for himself, the lawsuit claims. As well, it says the college “knew or ought to have known he sexually assaulted the plaintiff via coercion or undue influence.”

As a result, the school failed to fulfil its obligation to protect the plaintiff from “physical, sexual, mental and emotional abuse,” the statement of claim says.

“The (college) was negligent because it knew or ought to have known that Rev. Veinotte had displayed sexually abusive tendencies.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 3, 2024.

The Canadian Press

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