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Risk in the arts: Royal Winnipeg Ballet Named in Proposed Class-Action Lawsuit

Published: 12 Sep 2018

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The perpetrator is Bruce Monk, who worked for the ballet between 1984 and 2015 and who has been accused of having taken intimate photos of students. According to lead plaintiff Sarah Doucet, the photographer pressured her and others into allowing him to take sexualized, semi-nude photographs of them, and later publishing, selling and distributing some of them online, without their consent. Monk is being accused of breaching his fiduciary duty to the students, breaching their confidence and trust, invading their privacy, and committing the tort of public disclosure of private facts. As for the ballet company, it has been accused of systemic negligence and vicarious liability for the improper conduct of its teacher.

The case is being brought or supported by more than 60 former dancers and students with the ballet, who are now adults and who have self-identified as potential class members or witnesses in the case. The women are seeking $75 million in damages, and all say that they felt that as students of the ballet, they felt compelled to follow the photographer and instructor’s orders, and only later found their images being sold online. The claim that Monk forced them to pose topless, and sometimes directed them to pose in even more revealing positions between 1984 and 2015.

When asked for comment, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet issued a statement saying, “We cannot comment on the specific details of the legal process or June 27th’s procedural motion.

Our primary focus is the safety, security and well-being of every student entrusted to our care; It is a responsibility that we take very seriously, and we assess and evaluate our processes and procedures on an ongoing basis.

We can share with you that our Child Protection Policies and Procedures Manual was developed in keeping with guidelines from the Canadian Centre for Child Protection. All staff working with our students are trained on our policy and supporting procedures.”

A police complaint was filed against Monk in 2015, and though no criminal charges were pursued, he was fired by the ballet in 2015.

Arts organizations face enormous challenges, including employing instructors and others in position of authority over young participants who may take advantage of their positions of power. At La Playa Insurance, we can help you protect your organization, supporting you with advice on best practice in managing your risks, and providing coverage for legal costs (even unfounded allegations are expensive to defend) and damages if the worst happens. Call us today to speak to one of our specialists.

 

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