‘Next big step’: Young Canadians lawsuit given approval to proceed

CALGARY — A lawsuit filed on behalf of several young men who were sexually abused by a former employee of The Young Canadians performance arts school has passed its first major hurdle.

Proceedings against Philip Heerema, the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede Ltd. and the Calgary Stampede Foundation have been certified as a class action by the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench.

Heerema resigned in 2014 from The Young Canadians when police began investigating several complaints.

The six victims were male students between 15 and 17 who were at the school between 1992 and 2013, and the lawsuit claims the Calgary Stampede was aware of allegations against the former employee, but failed to act.

Heerema pleaded guilty to sexual assault, sexual exploitation, luring and making child pornography and last year was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The next step will be for Heerema and the Stampede to issue statements of defence.

“We’ve now been granted certification which is kind of like the next big step with respect to the litigation. We’ve been confirmed that this is appropriate and the best way to proceed is by a class action,” said Cassandra Sutter of JSS Barristers, which filed the lawsuit in April 2017.

“The alternative would be that if it wasn’t certified as a class action these young boys would have to be advancing individual claims.”

The law firm will be inviting all male students, employees, contractors or volunteers of The Young Canadians between July 1, 1997, and January 31, 2014, to join the lawsuit.

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