Thu. May 19th, 2022

TORONTO – A Toronto teacher charged with drowning a teenage student during a canoe trip in Algonquin Park in 2017 has been found guilty of criminal negligence that caused death.

In her ruling, which was read out during a virtual hearing Wednesday morning, Supreme Court Justice Maureen Forestell said the behavior of Nicholas Mills, a CW Jeffery’s Collegiate Institute teacher who organized and led the school trip, did not “reach the moral level of guilt that is necessary for criminal liability. “

Jeremiah Perry, who was one of 32 students who participated in the trip, was not wearing a life jacket when he drowned in Trout Lake on July 4, 2017.

While Judge Forestell acknowledged that Mills “created a risk that would have been foreseen by a sensible teacher” in the same circumstances, his actions that day did not show a ruthless disregard for the safety of others, which is necessary to find criminal negligence that causes death.

Perry, along with more than a dozen other students, failed the swimming test required by the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) to participate in the excursion.

Justice Forestell said that while the decisions Mills made until the day of the drowning did not meet the standard of “perfection,” they were reasonable and fell within the standard of care.

The judge noted that although the decision to allow non-swimmers on the trip was not in line with school board policy, other organizations, including scouts Canada, allow non-swimmers to participate in canoe trips.

The judge also accepted that Mills had seen Perry swim 50 yards without a life jacket just two days before his death.

The judge said that even careful and cautious parents at times allow children who are not strong swimmers in water without life jackets, noting that the teacher’s actions in this regard were not “unreasonable”.

The judge took issue with the fact that several weak or non-swimmers were in or near the lake at the time of Perry’s drowning. She noted that while there was a trained lifeguard at the swimming spot and students were warned of a steep fall in the area, the lifeguard would not have been able to supervise all the swimmers at once.

“Mr. Mills made individual decisions that were justified, such as allowing weak and non-swimmers to participate in the trip and allowing students to swim without life jackets. His behavior fell below standard as he did not reassess the risk in the swimming area on July 4 , where steep drop-off to deep water added to the cumulative circumstances to increase the risk and make the situation uncertain for Jeremiah Perry, ”said Justice Forestell.

She said his “error in the assessment” took place within a time period of about an hour.

“If this were a case of civil negligence, the test would be met. This is a criminal case. It is not enough for the Crown to prove that Mr Mills fell below the standard. The Crown must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that failure to “anticipating the risk and taking steps to avoid it, if possible, was a significant and significant deviation from the standard of care expected of a reasonable person in the same circumstances,” Justice Forestell said.

“At the time of the swim on July 4, he should have revisited his decision to let Jeremiah into the water without a life jacket, and he failed to do so. This failure … resulted in the tragic death of 15-year-old Jeremiah. Perry. The behavior did not approach the level of deviating from the standard of care required for a criminal conviction. “

During the trial, the court heard a student who was in deep water but wearing a life jacket when Perry disappeared said he felt something pull in his leg and pull him underwater. The student could reappear and call for help. Both Mills and another adult who monitored the trip were standing in the water at the time of the incident and realized Perry was missing shortly after the student reported being pulled under.

None of the students witnessed Perry entering the deep water, and he was last seen standing in the shallow part of the lake without a life jacket.

The lifeguard hired for the trip and a lifeguard from a nearby campground searched the water for Perry, but he could not be found. His body was found by police divers the following day.

Nicholas mills

TDSB says it can now complete the investigation

In a statement released after the decision, the Toronto District School Board said today’s verdict now allows the school board to “complete the final piece” of its investigation process into the TDSB’s internal review of Perry’s death.

“In the meantime, the employee has been on leave and not paid by TDSB,” the statement said.

“Although there were specific requirements at the time – which we know were not followed – we further strengthened our requirements four years ago regarding water-based activities, including mandatory main deregistration of swimming test results and sharing of all results with parents / guardians before any activity takes place. . ”

The school board added that Perry’s loss four years later “is still deeply felt by those who loved and knew him.”

“Our hearts are with his family, friends and the larger CW Jeffrey’s CI school community during this difficult and emotional time,” the statement continued.

“We have once again expressed our condolences to Jeremiah’s family and have offered support to both them and the CW Jeffery’s CI community.”


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