Duff Friesen, former Legacy Christian Academy principal, pleads not guilty to historical assaults

Heywood Yu/Saskatoon StarPhoenix The entrance of Legacy Christian Academy, formerly called Christian Centre Academy, photographed in Saskatoon, Sask. on Thursday, August 11, 2022.

Bre McAdam

Saskatoon StarPhoenix

A Saskatoon man accused of assaulting students while he was a teacher and principal of a Saskatoon Christian school has pleaded not guilty to 11 counts of assault with a weapon.

Duff Arthur Friesen, 65, is the third of four ex-administrators and teachers to plead not guilty in connection with historical abuse allegations at Legacy Christian Academy (previously known as Christian Centre Academy).

Friesen’s lawyer, Roman Iatsenko, entered the not guilty pleas on Thursday in Saskatoon provincial court.

Friesen was the principal at Regent Academy in Prince Albert when he turned himself in to Saskatoon police on June 15 after reports were made against him in 2021 and 2022. He was released by consent during his first court appearance on conditions that include having no contact with a list of complainants, and not working or volunteering in any capacity with people under the age of 16.

Earlier this month, John Olubobokun, Legacy’s former director, pleaded not guilty to 12 counts of assault with a weapon. On Thursday, Crown prosecutor Sheryl Fillo combined some of Olubobokun and Friesen’s charges onto a new information. Their cases have been set over to Nov. 27 for case management and Nov. 30 to set trial dates.

Ken R. Schultz, 74, pleaded not guilty on Oct. 26 to sexual assault and assault with a weapon stemming from his time as former director and vice-principal at the school between 1987 and 1993. His Saskatoon provincial court trial has been set for May 15-16, 2024.

Legacy’s former athletics director, Aaron Benneweis, is the only former administrator to plead guilty. He entered the pleas on Oct. 5 to sexual assault and sexual exploitation of a student between 2008 and 2012. His sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 4, 2024.

Several former students of the school have filed a $25-million lawsuit. The statement of claim, which contains allegations that have not been tested in court, alleges Legacy Christian Academy and Mile Two Church (formerly Saskatoon Christian Centre) allowed church and teaching staff to spank and fondle students while perpetrating other physical, psychological and sexual abuse.

Postmedia has spoken with approximately a dozen students who attended the school from its inception in the mid-1980s until the early 2010s. Most alleged church and school officials had hit them on the buttocks with large, wooden paddles as a form of discipline for perceived indiscretions that included everything from talking back to a teacher to failing to tuck in a chair.

— with StarPhoenix files