Six women allege abuse in ’70s and ’80s by then-head of Prince of Wales outdoors program
A former Vancouver teacher is facing trial next month on eight charges of gross indecency and indecent assault involving six teenaged female students that allegedly took place more than two decades ago.
Tom Leslie Ellison was initially charged in June 2004 for offences that allegedly took place while he was a teacher at Prince of Wales secondary school on Vancouver’s west side in the 1970s and 1980s.
Vancouver School Board chairman Ken Denike said Wednesday that Ellison was the senior teacher involved with the Quest outdoor program, which took kids on adventure trips throughout B.C.
The trial begins Oct. 10 and will hear testimony from six adult women whose names have been blacked out on the eight-count indictment.
Ellison’s lawyer, Bill Smart, said the issue at trial will be whether Ellison’s conduct was considered a criminal act under the law as it was at the time.
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“While Mr. Ellison accepts what he did 25 to 30 years ago was unprofessional, it will have to be decided whether his conduct was criminal, based on the law at the time,” he explained.
Five of the charges allegedly involve incidents that took place between 1978 and 1982 aboard the vessel Nostradamus in territorial waters of B.C. at or near the Queen Charlotte Islands.
Ellison is no longer a teacher but runs coastal adventure tours on his 22-metre yacht, Ocean Light II, which is worth more than $1 million. He skippers the vessel to the Queen Charlottes, southern Alaska and the Khutzeymateen Valley, a grizzly bear sanctuary north of Prince Rupert.
“We were the first boat to offer professionally guided grizzly bear tours and are now authorized by BC Parks to bring people into the Khutzeymateen to see, photograph and experience these great animals,” says the website for Ocean Light II Adventures, which has an office in the 1900-block of West Fourth in Vancouver.
The website says Ellison is a “33-year veteran of the BC coast. He has introduced the area to thousands of people, young and old, in his unique way of providing you the opportunity for self discovery.”
It also says Ellison’s partner, Jenn Broom, helps crew the ship and cook meals for up to 10 guests who stay in five separate bedrooms aboard the Ocean Light II.
Shirley Nakata, director of professional conduct at the B.C. College of Teachers, said Thursday that Ellison’s teaching certificate was cancelled in 1996 for non-payment of fees.
The college recently opened an investigation file on Ellison after being contacted by the Crown, she said.
“Now that we’re aware of these charges, we can still hold disciplinary proceedings against the person if they ever held a certificate,” Nakata explained.
She said the discipline committee “will be reviewing the information from the police and the Crown” to decide whether to proceed with a disciplinary hearing.