Montessori school in Ottawa put into receivership

An Ottawa court judge has placed a debt-ridden private Montessori school in Ottawa into receivership.
Court grants application to transfer ownership of debt-ridden school to BDO Canada Ltd. 2:03

An Ottawa court judge has placed a debt-ridden private Montessori school in Ottawa into receivership.

The Business Development Bank of Canada had filed an application to replace the owners of the Canadian Montessori Academy with a court-appointed receiver, BDO Canada Limited.

The bank said the school owed it close to $800,000 and has not received a loan payment since 2010.

Andre Ducasse, the lawyer for the bank, told Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Beaudoin the school has failed to send the bank any financial information as required by the terms of the loans. 
The Canadian Montessori Academy is located in a former Catholic elementary school at 70 Fieldrow St. in Nepean. (CBC)

"The corporate respondent has been completely uncooperative," said Ducasse.

The school in Nepean is owned and operated by the de Mel family, and its principal is Sherie de Mel.

School faces a number of creditors

Beaudoin approved the application on Monday, and rejected the family's plea to let it stay in control so the family can sell to a new, undisclosed buyer.

"I think at this point in time the sale is in jeopardy if it's left in your hands," said Justice Beaudoin.

The bank's claim is one of many. Federal tax authorities have slapped multiple liens on the property, and the City of Ottawa claims it is owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes.

The academy's total liabilities, according to the bank, amount to almost $1.9 million.

The school is also facing numerous lawsuits.

The Canadian Montessori Academy has been operating in Ottawa since 1980.

Sylvia Robbins, one of several parents who requested a tuition refund, claims the school was unsafe and the teachers not certified. With the receivership, her claim and others like it are stayed. She said she may never get her money back, but said her real sympathy is with parents who paid tuition for the upcoming year.

"I'm not going back next year but I know a lot of parents who are," said Robbins. "I'm really upset on their behalf because they are not getting their money back from the looks of things next year. Ten thousand dollars from five parents I know is a lot of money coming from a lot of pockets. It's sickening to be honest with you."

The de Mels had no comment.

It's not clear what will happen next. In the meantime, the receiver, BDO Canada, will likely continue running the academy.