Our Lady Seat of Wisdom releases report on sexualized misconduct allegations

·4 min read

Barry’s Bay – Our Lady Seat of Wisdom has released the report of an independent investigation into allegations of sexualized misconduct against a former choir master and music professor and implemented policies to protect future students against the possibility of abuse.

While the report prepared by investigator, Elizabeth Grace, and her team at Lerners LLP, showed the allegations of sexual misconduct by former professor Uwe Lieflander were true, it also clarified the sexual misconduct only occurred after the student had left the college. The report noted he did not commit sexualized misconduct against a student, however, went on to state he did commit sexual misconduct against her when she was an alumnus who had been introduced to him as a result of his association with the college. The report also concluded he committed non-sexualized misconduct against the individual while they were a student at the college and noted other persons in authority at the college did not intervene as they became aware of “an inappropriately close and personal relationship” between a faculty member and a student.

“The facts do support a finding that UL (Uwe Lieflander) used the SWC (Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College) premises/facilities to abuse a vulnerable person – namely, Witness A,” the conclusions of the investigation stated. “While Witness A was a current student at SWC, his abuse was psychological and emotional. After she ceased being as student of SWC, his abuse expanded to be sexual as well.”

The report noted the college had inadequate measures in place to prevent misconduct against a student. As well, there were policies in place which Mr. Lieflander contravened.

“Specifically, his parental-like relationship with Witness A during her year as a fulltime student contravened SWC’s Conduct Policy for Faculty, incorporated by reference into his contracts with the college. The subsequent sexualized activity that he engaged in with Witness A on college premises after she ceased being a student of SWC represented a further contravention by him of both the Conduct Policy for Faculty and the SWC Anti-Abuse, Violence and Harassment Policy,” the report stated.

The report also showed no one in authority at the college was officially aware of the misconduct until May 2017. The student had been at the college in 2014-2015. However, the report also noted “red flags” indicative of a problem between Mr. Lieflander and the witness were not heeded by persons in authority during the student’s time at the college. As well, two specific individuals in authority, whose names were redacted from the published report, did not respond appropriately to “what clearly represented a potential violation by UL of his professional obligations and boundaries and of SWC’s Conduct Policy for Faculty. Knowledge that a faculty member was in a close, personal relationship with a student should have prompted them to make further inquiries, monitor the situation and/or report the matter to SWCs president.”

College Response

As a result of the investigation, the college has implemented changes to ensure greater safety of students.

“Since 2017, as a result of the 2017 allegations against Lieflander, the College has already made some changes to its oversight of faculty and staff members and to its policies and procedures to ensure the College is a safe place for all, including providing all students a mandatory, yearly presentation on consent,” a release from the school stated.

The college is also “in the process of further strengthening its policies, procedures, and training in the relevant areas, including developing a stand-alone sexual violence policy to augment what is in the College’s Anti-abuse, Violence, and Harassment Policy.”

The college will also introduce training for faculty and staff in the area of developing and maintaining appropriate boundaries with students, in order to keep the relationship “friendly but professional,” in accordance with its policies. As well, the college has retained the services of legal counsel to conduct an audit of policies and procedures to ensure they not only comply with legal requirements but also give the College the tools needed to ensure faculty and staff conduct themselves professionally, and to provide students and other community members avenues to raise concerns.

“We wish to thank all those who came forward with information—especially the main witness, who showed courage by sharing her story in the face of significant obstacles,” the release stated. “The participation of all the interviewees in this investigation provided us with the opportunity to take a hard look at how we can improve in the area of student protection against abuse. For this the College is sincerely grateful.”

Mr. Lieflander left Canada in 2017 for his native Germany before warrants were issued for his arrest. He continues to add videos to his You Tube channel, where he has over 1,000 subscribers. He is still on the Ottawa Police Services most wanted list and will be charged with sexual assault on his return to Canada. The investigation is ongoing and anyone with information is asked to call the Ottawa Police Tip Line at 613-236-1222 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader

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