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Ucluelet man sues ex-principal and School District 70 over alleged sex abuse

Longtime Ucluelet resident Dan Edwards is suing former Ucluelet Elementary School principal Cyril Portman and the School District 70 Pacific Rim for alleged sex abuse.

According to the court documents filed in the B.C. Supreme court earlier this year, Portman is accused of taking special interest in Edwards in or around 1964 when he was in Grade 8 and 14 years old.

Portman had organized a curling club and recruited Edwards and other boys to be part of the team, documents claim. The ex-principal drove the boys to a former curling rink at an old hanger at the Tofino-Long Beach Airport for weekly practices and games. It was then when he allegedly fondled and molested Edwards.

“[Edwards] was unable to escape these advances and felt he could not say no to them,” reads the civil claim.

Edwards, now 71, alleges this took place for an entire year, and during the winter of 1965 when a trip to Port Alberni for a bonspiel would result in the young team spending a night in Portman’s vehicle to wait out a snowstorm.

“Portman’s vehicle was a four-door sedan, and he put the seats down and insisted that the Plaintiff lie down next to him for the night, while the other boys were lined up against the far door. Portman told the Plaintiff that if he woke up with a quarter in his hand and Portman had a smile on his face that the Plaintiff would know why. The Plaintiff became extremely scared at this and due to the prior groping and molestation by Portman, refused to go to sleep or lie down next to Portman for the entire night,” states the civil claim.

The alleged sexual abuse ended after Edwards quit the curling team in 1965.

Ontario-based law firm Ledroit Sabo is representing Edwards in his civil claim against Portman and the School District 70. They are seeking damages from the School District 70 under actions of vicarious liability and negligence.

“The School District created a system in which teachers and principals were placed in a position of trust and authority,” notes the court documents. “Portman’s position as a school principal, granted to him by the School District, materially enhanced the risk of him committing sexual offences againt the Plaintiff. As a result, the School District is vicariously responsible and liable for the actions of Portman.”

The School District 70 Pacific Rim filed a response to the civil claim on April 15, 2021.

“The District denies possessing any information that, at material the times, would have lead to know, or have ought to have known,that the defendant Cyril Bernard Portman posed a risk of harm to children or that he was abusing or behaving inappropriately towards the Plaintiff,” reads the response.

The district also opposes granting any relief sought and specifically denies that Edwards has suffered the injury, loss and damage claimed, or at all.

Portman is a convicted pedophile. In 1983, he pleaded guilty to 11 sex-related charges involving youths.

The offences took place over a five and a half year period between June 1, 1977, and Dec. 31, 1983, while he was the vice-principal at Mount Elizabeth senior secondary school in Kitimat.

Portman is also in the midst of another civil trial for an incident that allegedly occurred in 1981 while he was the principal of Kildala Elementary School, also located in Kitimat. He has yet to file a response to the civil claim launched by Edwards.

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Nora O'Malley

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