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Sexual abuse victim gets $1.1 million and apology from school district

Prince George resident Michael Bruneau has reached a settlement in his lawsuit against School District 57 for sexual abuse by teacher Wendall Diakiw.

The settlement terms include an apology from the School District and $1.1 million from the district’s insurer.  It is understood to be the largest reported settlement of an individual teacher abuse case in British Columbia, according to Bruneau’s lawyer, Aaron Lealess.

The abuse started when Bruneau was a Grade 6 student and went on for three years during the mid-1980s, according to Lealess.  Diakiw taught at the school from 1971-1986.

In 1986 Bruneau, then 16 years of age, attended Diakiw’s house with a tape recorder and secured a taped confession which led to police charges.  In 1987 Diakiw was charged with sexual assault, gross indecency, and indecent assault in relation to six young students including Bruneau. On November 25, 1987, Diakiw pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years in jail.

In 2017, Bruneau, along with fellow students Brett McLachlan and Ed Squire, filed suit against the district and Diakiw, each seeking $3.2 million in damages. They claimed the school district failed to act on concerns raised about Diakiw. McLachlan and Squire subsequently withdrew their cases.

Lealess said receiving the apology letter was a powerful experience for Michael. 

“After suffering years of anxiety, depression, PTSD and a host of other abuse-related problems, Michael launched a civil lawsuit against the School District in 2017,” said Lealess. “Through the lawsuit he has obtained police records, court records, and school records which have answered many of the questions he had regarding Diakiw.  Michael has found closure through the lawsuit process and is happy with how the School District treated him throughout the legal proceedings.   

“It is Michael’s hope that by going public with his experience, other victims of abuse will know that they are not alone and need not suffer in silence.  He hopes to empower others to seek treatment and/or justice when they are ready.  His message is that it is never too late for justice.”

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