TORONTO — A judge has ruled that a class−action lawsuit can proceed against the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and a photographer who is alleged to have taken intimate photos of students.
Lawyer Margaret Waddell says about 60 people have been identified so far as potential class−action members in the lawsuit against the ballet company and Bruce Monk, who worked as a photographer between 1984 and 2015.
The lead plaintiff, Sarah Doucet, alleges Monk pressured her into letting him take semi−nude photos of her as a teenager and then distributed them.
The allegations have not been proven in court, and both Monk and the ballet company have filed statements of defence denying the accusations.
Police investigated a complaint against Monk in 2015 but no charges were laid.
The recent decision by an Ontario Superior Court justice certifies Doucet’s case as a class−action lawsuit, although the defendants have 30 days to appeal the ruling.
"To date, 53 former students have contacted (Doucet’s lawyer) self−identifying as potential class members, or they have been identified by the witnesses on this motion as students whose photographs are on the internet and who may have been photographed by Mr. Monk in a private setting," the ruling states.
Lawyers for Monk and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet were not immediately available for comment Wednesday.
Waddell said there are still a few steps before the lawsuit can be heard.
"We have to get notice out to the class members, to let everybody know that the action has been certified ,and they have an opportunity to decide if they want to exclude themselves," Waddell said.
The statement of claim alleges Doucet and other former students felt they had no choice but to follow Monk’s orders, and later found images of some students being sold online.
"Over the many years he was employed by the ballet, Monk amassed a substantial cache of thousands of intimate images," the lawsuit says.
"Among other means, Monk offered copies of these intimate images for sale over the internet through various e−commerce (sites) to purchasers across the country, including in Ontario."
— By Steve Lambert in Winnipeg
The Canadian Press