Revisiting the legacy of Galt's Grandview Training School For Girls

By Nigel Gordijk  Monday, March 6, 2023

Content warning: mentions of sexual assault, rape, violence, detention, abuse, mentions of homicide and violence against children. 

Written for The Community Edition.

Grandview Training School - CBC - Undated

Grandview Training School - CBC - Undated

On Sept. 7, 1933, a crowd of 1,000 attended the opening of the Ontario Training School for Girls – Galt. The institution was part of the Provincial government’s rehabilitation system that operated from the early 1930s to reform children aged 12 to 18 who were considered “unmanageable” or “incorrigible”. It became Grandview Training School for Girls in 1967, and about 120 children passed through its doors annually between 1933 and 1976. The system ended in 1984. 

Kids were detained under the Juvenile Delinquents Act and the Training School Act for offences such as truancy and running away from home. A family court judge would remove a child from their family following a Children’s Aid Society application, but it was the training schools who chose the release date.  

In 1964, Canadian Weekly magazine included a feature called “Last Chance School For Girls.” 

“If (these girls) resist reform they may be held in custody for as long as three years,” the article said. 

In 1991, two former Grandview inmates who were treated by the same psychologist independently told him similar stories of abuse. The therapist introduced them to each other, and a public appeal resulted in other former Grandview residents coming forward.  

The Ontario Provincial Police and Waterloo Regional Police Service began a joint five-year investigation, which revealed beatings, prolonged segregation, suicides, sexual assault, rapes, sex parties organized by guards and coerced abortions. 

Eight former Grandview employees were charged in the late-1990s, with only two convictions.  

Thomas Loker was superintendent for eight years until the school’s closure. 16 charges against him, including rape and indecent assault, were stayed due to his poor health. 

Robert Ross, chief psychologist, faced 17 charges. He was acquitted on six, and there was a mistrial for the others. Before his retrial, the charges were stayed due to lost evidence and the deaths of several witnesses. 

Robert Finley, a guard between 1968 and 1974, pleaded guilty to 16 charges, including sexual abuse. He was jailed for three years. 

Former guard Kenneth Walker was convicted of rape, indecent assault and breach of trust and sentenced to five years. 

A compensation settlement was reached between the Grandview Survivors Support Group and the Government of Ontario in 1994. Hundreds of victims received between $3,000 and $60,000 from a $16.4 million fund. 

In November 1999, then-Attorney General Jim Flaherty offered an official apology and acknowledged the lasting consequences of childhood abuse.  

Following publicity from the Grandview scandal, inmates from other training schools came forward. In 2018, the Ontario Superior Court certified a class action claiming $600 million in damages. Legal firm Koskie Minsky LLP alleges that the government is responsible for “a toxic environment in which physical, sexual and psychological abuse of children in its care was frequent and widespread.” 

Kirk Keeping was abused at a training school and initiated the class action in 2017, but he died in 2021. A mediation before a retired judge is scheduled for late June 2023. 

Grandview’s vandalized and derelict buildings were demolished in 2000 and replaced with a condominium subdivision for seniors.