Manitoba

Class action proposed against former RWB instructor

Seeking $50M in damages after students allege nude photos taken

Taiwan Swan Lake

Sarah Doucet has filed a lawsuit against the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Bruce Monk alleging the former teacher coerced her into taking topless photos. (Wally Santana/Associated Press)

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A former student of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet is filing a class-action lawsuit against the school and former instructor Bruce Monk.

A statement of claim has been filed with the courts in Ontario, where plaintiff Sarah Doucet now lives. The suit is seeking $50 million in damages for taking nude photos of Doucet and other students and selling them online.

"She is looking for justice," said Margaret Waddell, who is Doucet's lawyer and a partner at Waddell Phillips.

Doucet alleges Monk took topless photos of her without her consent. Waddell said her client was 16 or 17 when she asked Monk to take photos of her for her dance portfolio. The statement of claim said "it was common knowledge at the Ballet that Monk would take headshots for students."

Bruce Monk

Bruce Monk was fired from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet in 2015 after similar allegations came to light. (CBC)

Waddell said they first took dance photos in a RWB studio and then went to an office to take headshots. She alleges Monk asked her client to pull down her straps because they were interfering with her neckline.

"Then he asked her to pull it down further and that's the point where it became very uncomfortable for her," said Waddell. "But he insisted and eventually ended up with the unitard down around her waist and he took a series of photographs of her naked from the waist up."

This isn't the first time a claim like this has been made against Monk.

Several students went to the police and media in 2015 claiming Monk had coerced them into taking nude or semi nude photos. Monk was also accused of selling those photos online.

Police investigated, but no charges were laid. The RWB also investigated and eventually fired Monk in April 2015.

Waddell said she found 117 nude or semi-nude photos of former RWB students for sale on auction sites like eBay.

She said she has spoken with a number of former students making similar allegations.

A civil suit was also filed in Manitoba against Monk by a different former student in November 2016.

Waddell said both defendants have received the statement of claim. She said the class action has yet to be certified by the courts.

Kate Fennell, who is director of school operations, said in an email: "we cannot comment or respond to specific details, but we can confirm that the RWB has been served with a statement of claim by a former student of the RWB School."

CBC has reached out to Monk's lawyer for comment. 

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