Ex-teacher faces more charges of gross indecency

The Vancouver Sun/September 16, 2006
By Neal Hall

Charges involving six more women were laid Friday against former Prince of Wales teacher Tom Ellison, doubling the number of former students accusing him of sex-related crimes.

The new indictment brings the number of former student complainants to 12 and adds eight charges against Ellison, a one-time teacher in the controversial Quest outdoor program.

The new counts include six of gross indecency, one of sexual assault and one of indecent assault.

Sexual assault was a new offence under Criminal Code changes in 1983. Before 1983, sexual crimes were defined as gross indecency and indecent assault if there was no intercourse.

Prosecutor Ralph Keefer said Friday the new complainants and additional charges are not expected to delay Ellison's trial, which is set to begin Oct. 10 in Vancouver Provincial Court.

"As the trial prosecutor, I had always planned to call the six former students as witnesses," he said.

"Having now studied their statements and spoken to them, it is my view that these women should be complainants on an equal footing as the others," Keefer said.

The new indictment will replace the previous eight-count indictment, which was sworn in June, 2004, when Ellison was first charged.

The 12 women cannot be identified because of a publication ban.

Ellison is no longer a teacher. He runs a boat charter company on the B.C. coast.

The allegations date back to 1972, when Ellison and other teachers were involved in the experimental Quest outdoor education program, which some students described as "cult-like" because of the close-knit group of students taught by teachers considered radical in their day.

One student said Quest was like a cross between Outward Bound and Greenpeace, in which teachers taught students to challenge themselves physically as well as intellectually. Other students, however, say there was a dark side of Quest for female students, who have alleged they were seduced by a good-looking young teacher who had a passion for sailing and his students.

The Vancouver Sun broke the story last week that Ellison had been charged with gross indecency and indecent assault for events dating back more than three decades and involving six former students.

The new charges are not believed to have arisen from any new evidence, but involve another six women who were going to testify as Crown witnesses.

Two other former Quest teachers, Dean Hull and Stan Callegari, are being investigated by the B.C. College of Teachers for their conduct during their time with the program.

Earlier this week, Prince of Wales secondary sent a letter to parents assuring them there is no connection between Quest and the Trek program that replaced it in 1987.

"The incidents in question are alleged to have occurred more than 25 years ago and we can assure you that the alleged incidents did not involve any current staff or students at the Prince of Wales secondary or the Trek program," principal Jennifer Palmer wrote.

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