Former students share stories of bullying at St. Michael’s dating back decades

Former students are coming forward with their own experiences of bullying and harassment at the school

Dave Trafford had an incredible time at St. Michael’s College School four decades ago. He was the student body president, played on the hockey team, performed in musicals and ran its newspaper. He had a close group of friends who all had a great time.

Or so he thought.

Last week, as the all-boys private school in Toronto was rocked by allegations of assault and sexual assault by students, Trafford discovered that two of his best friends had struggled with bullying and felt unsafe at St. Michael’s.

“I did not see it then,” Trafford said. “It’s shocking, disappointing and heartbreaking.”

RELATED: Police looking into two more incidents at private Toronto all-boys’ school

A criminal investigation triggered by a video that police sources say shows several members of a St.Michael’s sports team pinning down a student and sexually assaulting him with a broom handle has now expanded to include at least six incidents. Six students —aged 14 and 15 — are already facing sex assault-related charges and police have warned more charges could follow.

The school has admitted that it has failed in its responsibility to keep students safe, saying the recent incidents clearly indicate it has a problem.

“We need to do much better at our culture and our student’s ability to talk to us,” the school’s principal, Greg Reeves, said earlier this week after police announced the criminal charges against the six students.

The growing scandal has forced alumni to grapple with the past and a number of them are coming forward with their own experiences of bullying and harassment at the school that stretches back decades.

“There’s a real opportunity for the school to take a good look at itself and go deep and figure out how and why it happened and how they missed this,” Trafford said. “And to find out everything that has happened in the past.”

A number of former students who spoke with The Canadian Press said they’re eager to share their stories as part of an internal review promised by the school.

Nathan Goveas graduated from St. Michael’s in 2003.

“I was bullied the entire time I was there, right from day one,” said Goveas, who’s now a teacher.

He wasn’t involved in sports.

“I’m a skinny brown kid. People made fun of my appearance. It was mostly verbal bullying,” he said.

He never complained, but said his mother grew worried when she noticed he was feeling ”down” in Grade 11. So she went to the administration.

“The principal dismissed it as boys will be boys,” Goveas said. The bullying continued.

Kyle Fraser said he left St. Michael’s in 2013 after Grade 10, unable to deal with the bullying.

“Leaving was the best decision of my life,” he said.

“I was bullied non stop, very relentless, not only by the students (but also) by the staff.”

He said he was picked on because he struggled with math and science and also because he wasn’t as good at hockey as some other students there.

“All that stuff affected me for a very long time,” he said. He became depressed and anxious.

“I was suicidal at one point. It got really bad.”

Fraser, who now studies at a university in Ohio, shared his story at an alumni meeting at the school on Tuesday night and received a lot of support afterward.

“It was very warming and put me in a peaceful state of mind,” he said. “There are a lot of good people there.”

Fraser and Goveas said there was a wide range of opinions at the meeting.

“I think some alumni aren’t willing to recognize the issues,” Goveas said.

Jean-Paul Bedard went public with his story last week in wake of the scandal. He lived through a violent, sexualized hazing incident at the school in the 1980s. He didn’t attend the alumni meeting, but has offered his services to the school as not only a survivor of sexual assault, but also as a trained trauma peer mentor. The school has yet to take up his offer.

“I’m skeptical of this review, but I will certainly be sharing my story,” he said. “Their attitude seems to be ‘we know how to fix this and don’t need outside help.’”

D’Arcy McKeown said he had a great time at St. Michael’s. Just a few months after graduating from the Roman Catholic school in 2005, he says he was sexually assaulted with a broom handle at McGill University as part of a hazing with the football team.

RELATED: Six students arrested, charged in sex assault probe at Toronto all-boys school

He left after just two weeks and returned to his alma mater, St. Michael’s, which he called a “safe space to recover.” He volunteered with the school’s football program for a time, before eventually resuming his studies at the University of Toronto.

McKeown applauded the school’s desire to take a victim-centric approach as it deals with both the current incidents and the historical “deep dive” into its culture.

“You need to get everything out there,” he said. “If others’ unfortunate experiences can help guide St. Mike’s in preventing these things going forward, it’s for the best, as painful as it may be for some to tell these stories.”

St. Michael’s alumni will be helping the school with mentorship and workshops in the coming days and weeks in an effort to help the current students.

Liam Casey, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Smudging in B.C. classroom had ‘trivial’ impact on Christian family’s faith, says school district’s lawyer

Lawyers lay out arguments in case regarding indigenous cultural practice in Port Alberni classroom

Nanaimo hunters may have harvested deer in area known for chronic wasting disease

Conservation officers make urgent request to public for any information

Nanaimo man caught with more than 200,000 child porn images to be sentenced

Crown says Aaron Macrae recorded video of children on buses and at his workplace

City of Nanaimo budget talks underway, projected tax increase up to 5.6 per cent

Series of special finance and audit meetings was held Wednesday at conference centre

One person injured in rollover crash on Nanaimo Parkway

Accident happened a little after noon in southbound lanes near Cedar Road

One person injured in rollover crash on Nanaimo Parkway

Accident happened a little after noon in southbound lanes near Cedar Road

Beefs & Bouquets, Nov. 21

To submit a beef or a bouquet to the Nanaimo News Bulletin, e-mail bulletinboard@nanaimobulletin.com

Canucks erupt with 5 power-play goals in win over Nashville

Vancouver ends three-game slide with 6-3 triumph over Predators

65-million-year-old triceratops makes its debut in Victoria

Dino Lab Inc. is excavating the fossilized remains of a 65-million-year-old dinosaur

Front Street becomes permanent location for bus exchange

Nanaimo city council will look at safety upgrades, will work with RDN on design

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Time for a ban on leaf blowers

Loud noise can cause heart attacks, deafness and mental disorders, says letter writer

Nanaimo’s Kirkwood Academy presents 20th production of ‘The Nutcracker’

More than 150 dancers of all ages to participate in classic Christmas ballet Nov. 22-23

City of Nanaimo to issue alert as it moves to new emergency information system

Municipality will send out reminder Thursday, Nov. 21, asking residents to switch to new system

Most Read