THREE HILLS, Alta. – The president of a Bible college northeast of Calgary says notifying the RCMP about allegations of sex abuse was the right thing to do.
Mark Maxwell, the president of Prairie Bible Institute in Three Hills, Alta., and the grandson of its founder, said rumblings about sex abuse dating back 30 to 50 years started in August. He said he saw the allegations on a Facebook page and went to police earlier this month.
“I took it over on a thumb drive to the RCMP to say there seems to be a lot of noise around this possibility that we’ve had criminal activity on our campus and if you would like to look into it, then you’ll find us most co-operative,” Maxwell said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
He said he discussed the situation with students on a number of occasions in chapel to let them know what was going on.
The RCMP confirmed over the weekend that investigators are looking into complaints of past abuse at the school.
Sgt. Patrick Webb said it can be difficult to come up with evidence of “historic” sexual assaults.
“There is no physical evidence,” he said. “It just comes down to finding witnesses.”
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Prairie Bible Institute boasts 16,000 alumni in 114 countries. It was founded in 1922 when L.E. Maxwell taught the Bible to eight local farm children. It later grew to include a ministry for mission preparation, a technical college and an aviation school.
Linda Fossen, an alumni member who attended the school during the 1960s and 1970s, has started an online petition demanding the case be examined by the Virginia-based Christian counselling group Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment.
The organization helps churches work through allegations of sexual abuse.
Fossen has said she has encouraged several alumni to contact police about their allegations of sexual abuse. Fossen, who now lives near Orlando, Fla., met many of the people through a Facebook page for alumni.
But Maxwell said he opposes the idea of getting GRACE involved because the group is U.S.-based and there is some suggestion that members of the Facebook group have an affiliation with it.
“The highest bar, without any doubt, in terms of an independent third party would be the police. To be sure we can’t bribe them and the probability of a victim taking them in would not be high either,” he said.
“They are an excellent, independent third party.”
Three Hills, a community of just over 3,000, is about 130 kilometres northeast of Calgary.
– By Bill Graveland in Calgary