How a royal gift exposed sexual abuse at an elite Canadian school

Prince Andrew wanted to memorialize his friend and former chaplain at Lakefield College School. The resulting tribute prompted Father Keith Gleed’s victims to finally break their silence.


 
L: Prince Andrew renews his memories of Lakefield College in 1985; which he attended in 1977; R: Keith Gleed. (Mike Slaughter/Toronto Star/Getty Images; University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections)

L: Prince Andrew renews his memories of Lakefield College in 1985; which he attended in 1977; R: Keith Gleed. (Mike Slaughter/Toronto Star/Getty Images; University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections)

Nine years ago, Prince Andrew paid a visit to his Canadian alma mater: the prestigious Lakefield College School, just north of Peterborough, Ont. It was not the first homecoming for His Royal Highness. A teenage exchange student back in 1977, the Queen’s second son retains strong ties to his old campus and has reminisced often about how deeply he treasures those “life-changing” six months. But that particular trip, in May 2008, was especially sentimental. The Duke of York had a gift to present: a hand-carved baptismal font for the school chapel.

Crafted in part from a large rock that Andrew had delivered from Scotland’s Balmoral Castle, the font was created to honour a dear friend: the late Keith Gleed, an Anglican priest who served as chaplain at the elite private school between 1974 and 1980. After meeting at Lakefield, Andrew and Gleed remained such good friends that the prince invited the reverend both to his 21st birthday party and to his wedding to Sarah Ferguson. Shortly before Gleed died of cancer in 2001, Andrew even travelled to his hospital bedside to say goodbye—“surely a testament of true friendship,” according to Gleed’s obituary in the school newsletter.

The day the font was dedicated, staff and students joined Andrew inside the A.W. Mackenzie Chapel for the blessing ceremony. Dead for seven years by then, Gleed was fondly remembered as “the confidant of the troubled, the defender of the bullied and a true friend to all.”

In reality, Father Keith was none of those things. He was a pedophile who preyed on vulnerable young students and took his secret to the grave—only to have the truth exposed, ironically enough, because of Andrew’s well-intentioned efforts to enshrine his memory.

Maclean’s has learned that after the prince unveiled Gleed’s religious tribute, at least five former students came forward to report they were sexually abused by the one-time chaplain. Two have launched lawsuits against Lakefield College School (LCS)—including one graduate, now 54, who says it was Andrew’s gesture that spurred him to break his silence in 2014, prompting Lakefield to initiate a third-party investigation that triggered other victims to come forward.

“Greg was pained and haunted by the knowledge that a pedophile like Father Keith was permanently honoured with a baptismal font on the school’s premises,” says the man’s statement of claim, which seeks $5 million in damages. “Thereafter, Greg began to disclose the sexual abuse he had endured at Father Keith’s hands, which, up to that point, he had kept a secret.” (Although the lawsuits are not subject to a publication ban, Maclean’s has chosen, after consulting with the victims, to identify them by their first names only: Gregory and Edward.)

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At Gregory’s urging, school officials removed the memorial font from the chapel. Its current whereabouts is unknown. Lakefield will say only that the one-of-a-kind piece “was removed from school property in 2014.”

That Keith William Gleed was a sexual deviant is not in dispute. Lakefield’s own independent investigators concluded in 2015 that the disgraced chaplain violated “the trust and authority” of his position and “afflicted harm on innocent students by engaging in sexual misconduct.” But the two lawsuits go further, accusing Lakefield of “failing to reveal, and in fact, concealing, Father Keith’s sexual misconduct” from parents and police, and permitting the abuse “to continue unchecked.” At the very least, the lawsuits allege Lakefield is liable for the conduct of its former employee, who was encouraged “to have regular, unsupervised and intimate physical and psychological contact with its students.”

Whatever the full truth, the revelations about Father Keith have landed Lakefield—one of the country’s most esteemed private schools—among the institutions now stained by sexual abuse, from church-run residential schools to elite preparatory colleges. At LCS (as at Toronto’s Upper Canada College, which endured its own abuse scandal in the early 2000s), neither the reputation of the academy nor the socio-economic status of parents and alumni proved enough to protect every student in its care.

“When he started at LCS, Eddy had been a happy and gregarious child who was eager to please and had a promising future ahead of him,” reads Edward’s statement of claim, which seeks $2.25 million. After Gleed sexually assaulted him, his life became “chaotic and crisis-ridden”—a downward spiral of substance abuse, petty criminality and crippling flashbacks. Edward is now 53. “[He] has above average intelligence,” his claim continues. “But because of the childhood sexual abuse he experienced at LCS and the lack of meaningful support he received while attending LCS…he has never achieved his full educational, vocational or earnings potentials and goals.”

Lakefield has filed statements of defence in both lawsuits, denying the allegations, denying it is liable for Gleed’s behaviour, and describing the damages sought as “excessive, exaggerated and remote.” The school also launched third-party claims against the Anglican dioceses of Toronto and Niagara, where Gleed was variously licensed after his ordination in 1960. Both dioceses “endorsed Father Gleed as chaplain” and held him out “as a suitable and respectable Anglican priest,” Lakefield alleges, “when they knew or ought to have known that he was not suited for the position.” (In their own statements of defence, both dioceses also deny wrongdoing—in particular, that church officials may have been alerted to Gleed’s abuse. Maclean’s contacted the lawyers representing the dioceses; both declined comment, citing the active litigation.)

Keith Gleed. (University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections)

Keith Gleed. (University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections)

Along with defending itself in court, Lakefield has retained the services of Profile Communications, a boutique Toronto public relations firm that specializes in crisis management. “We are the 911 of communications,” says the company’s website. Via the firm’s principal, Caroline Spivak, Lakefield answered a list of written questions from Maclean’s.

The school says “it had no knowledge of any alleged impropriety on the part of Father Gleed” in the years before Andrew presented the baptismal font. “Once the allegations were brought forward, LCS immediately put in place the necessary resources to support the victims and the independent third-party investigation it initiated,” Lakefield says. “Counselling was made available to all who came forward, and continues to be provided. The school also communicated broadly and openly with its community, encouraging all parties to participate fully in the independent third-party investigation. The safety and well-being of its students is always the school’s highest priority.”

Four of Gleed’s victims, including Gregory, shared their stories with Lakefield’s investigators. Edward did not, but his lawsuit brings to five the number of Gleed’s known accusers (another alumnus also came forward to allege he’d been sexually abused by a different school employee, a teacher named Colin F. Pickering, who died in 2011).

“Following the conclusion of the investigation, LCS acknowledged the tremendous courage it took for them to speak to the investigators and apologized for the harm inflicted by Father Gleed and for the pain they have endured,” the school says. “The investigators’ detailed findings have not been released in order to protect the deeply personal information disclosed by the victims.”

Prince Andrew, who has previously served as a Lakefield trustee, is now honorary chair of the school’s charitable foundation. How he reacted to the truth about his friend—or hearing that the memorial font he helped create was removed from the chapel—is not clear. “We decline to comment,” said a Royal spokesperson, referring all questions to Lakefield.

***

One of Canada’s oldest private schools, Lakefield was founded in 1879 as Mr. Sparham Sheldake’s Preparatory School for Boys. Though renamed Lakefield College School in the 1960s, the sprawling waterfront campus—315 scenic acres on the shore of Lake Katchewanooka—remains affectionately known as “The Grove.” The high school became co-ed in 1989, and annual fees currently range from $32,000 for a day student to $57,000 for a boarder (international boarders pay $63,500).

Lakefield’s motto is mens sana in corpore sano—“a sound mind in a sound body”—and its mission statement embraces seven core values, including individuality, environmental stewardship and trust. Along with Andrew, notable alumni include Felipe VI, King of Spain; Emmy-nominated actor Will Arnett; Kenneth Irving, the former CEO of Irving Oil; David Miller, the former Toronto mayor; retired Supreme Court Justice Ian Binnie; Ottawa Senators defenceman Cody Ceci; and Anna Gainey, president of the Liberal Party of Canada.

When Gleed first arrived in 1974, Lakefield was still an all-boys academy, with approximately 250 students. Then in his early 40s, the veteran priest had already worked as a chaplain for other institutions: Trinity College School in Port Hope, Ont., the Anglican Young People’s Association, and the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets Corps Vanguard. He’d also been assigned to numerous parishes in his home city of Toronto, including St. James Cathedral downtown. In 1960, the Toronto Star interviewed him for an article about new priests. “I have a photograph taken at the age of two with a Bible,” Gleed told the reporter. “Ever since I can remember I have wished to become a minister.”

Lakefield School numbered Prince Andrew among its students (Frank Lennon/Toronto Star/Getty Images)

Lakefield Colllege School in winter (Frank Lennon/Toronto Star/Getty Images)

A prominent figure on campus, Gleed led chapel service every morning and acted as a residence supervisor. Funny and charismatic, he was well-liked by faculty and students; in one yearbook photo from the 1970s, Father Keith is seen walking down a hallway, surrounded by smiling boys patting his back and shoulders. As Gleed himself would later write of his six years at Lakefield: “Nowhere else have I found such a warm, relaxed, friendly, uncluttered milieu. It nurtures the whole person well!”

Father Keith was beginning his fourth year at Lakefield when Gregory enrolled in September 1977. He was in Grade 9, and eager for the opportunity. “I was excited,” says Gregory, who agreed to speak to Maclean’s via email. “I started at Lakefield with hopes about academic success, developing friendships, and being part of a community. The school’s emphasis on educating the whole person fit for me.”

As happy as he was in his new surroundings, Gregory’s home life was in tatters. His parents separated after he left for high school, and when his dad drove him back to campus at the end of Christmas holidays, his father specifically asked Father Keith to keep a close eye on his son, given their family troubles. Gleed agreed—and throughout that winter, 1978, the chaplain invited Gregory to his private residence nearly every day after classes.

Gregory’s statement of claim describes, in agonizing detail, what happened next.

“During these visits, Greg was alone with Father Keith,” the document reads. “Father Keith gave Greg alcohol (sherry) to drink and sat with Greg on the couch in his living room. Father Keith hugged and embraced Greg, touched and stroked Greg’s head, kissed Greg, and pulled Greg’s head against his chest. While doing these things, Father Keith spoke to Greg in a soothing and reassuring manner, but offered Greg little support with respect to his family problems. While Father Keith was hugging Greg, he also patted and squeezed Greg’s upper and inner thighs. Greg was uncomfortable and felt confused, uneasy and trapped during these encounters.”

During one visit—which would prove to be his last—Gregory woke up on the floor, disoriented. “Father Keith was on his back and Greg was lying across him, face down,” the lawsuit says. “Greg’s head was on Father Keith’s chest and Father Keith was holding Greg in an embrace. Father Keith asked Greg if he could hear his (Father Keith’s) heart beating.” The boy immediately jumped up, insisting he had to leave for supper.

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“As Greg walked back to his residence building, Greg could feel that his clothes were no longer on properly,” his statement of claim continues. “His underwear were pulled up tight and twisted and his trousers were askew. His anus was uncomfortable and he knew Father Keith had penetrated him. He felt dirty and that he had been drawn into doing something shameful. When he returned to his residence, he went straight to [the] shower and stood there, frozen, for a long time.”

In that moment, Gregory’s entire life was altered. Though he managed to graduate from Lakefield in 1982, he grew increasingly introverted and despondent during his remaining years on campus, turning to alcohol to numb the anguish. By Grade 13, he was drinking constantly—a coping mechanism he would cling to in the decades to come. Rarely has a day passed without Gregory wrestling with suicidal thoughts.

“Being abused by Father Keith fundamentally changed who I am,” he says. “When I was young, I believed I could make a difference in the world and that I had an obligation to do so. Those dreams gradually disappeared over the years. Since the abuse, I have felt there was something intrinsically wrong with me. I have felt ashamed. I thought that I’d be blamed and no one would believe me.”

For more than 30 years, he told no one. “I knew my pain was there, but it was too large, too all-consuming and too all-defining to confront,” Gregory says. “It was safer for me to avoid the pain by accepting myself as being a failure, as always screwing up.”

Prince Andrew Duke of York, chats with students from Lakefield College in Lakefield Sept. 26, 1992. The Prince was on hand to start a cross-country race as part of the college's homecoming and kick-off a fundraiser to build a new resource center. (Hans Deryk/CP)

Prince Andrew chats with students at Lakefield College during the college’s 1992 homecoming and kick-off a fundraiser (Hans Deryk/CP)

***

Father Keith left Lakefield in June 1980, going on to serve at different Anglican parishes in the greater Toronto area. By 1985, he was once again working as a chaplain, this time at the University of Waterloo’s Renison College. “I’m having a ball,” he told the campus newspaper. “It’s the excitement of living in a community of students, the neat little things that happen.” Two years later, Gleed took a job at St. John’s College at the University of Manitoba.

He remained on the move over the next 15 years, transferring in and out of parishes in Willowdale, Mississauga and Oakville. He also kept in touch with Andrew, and when the Prince married the Duchess of York in July 1986, Gleed was among the Lakefield contingent that travelled to Westminster Abbey for the wedding. (To this day, Andrew remains close with a core group of fellow Lakefield “old boys.” Five times, he has joined former classmates for a reunion canoe trip in the Northwest Territories.)

Father Keith passed away on Feb. 3, 2001, two weeks before his 69th birthday. At his funeral, one nurse recalled how the dying priest appeared to be at complete peace—“almost joyfully ready for his next journey.” Gleed’s death notice appeared in both The Globe and Mail and The Toronto Star, highlighting “his joyous faith, his wonderful smile and his infectious laugh.”

By 2010—more than 30 years after he was sexually assaulted inside the chaplain’s private residence—Gregory decided the time had finally come to confront his abuser. He emailed the Niagara Diocese in the hopes of tracking down Father Keith, only to be told he had died nine years earlier. When a subsequent internet search turned up a news article about Andrew and the baptismal font, Gregory was devastated. “This reinforced ideas in me that no one would believe me, that I was insignificant, and that the abuse of me would not matter,” he says.

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A year later, Gregory briefly separated from his wife. During counselling sessions aimed at repairing their relationship, he says he delved deeper into the abuse he experienced—and the pain of discovering that his alma mater had paid tribute to his tormentor. By August 2013, Gregory worked up the strength to start crafting a letter to Struan Robertson, then the head of school. Another year (and multiple revisions) later, he sent it, determined to have Gleed’s font removed from the chapel.

“I am a Grove Old Boy,” his letter began.

“Father Keith’s abuse is allowed to continue with each child that is baptized,” Gregory wrote. “I am certain there are other Old Boys in my position, who also find the commemoration of an abusive, manipulative pedophile contrary to the ideals of the Grove. I recognize that other Old Boys may have had a different experience of Father Keith. Despite this, Father Keith’s true nature sullies any positive experiences or benefit others may have derived.”

After removing the font, Lakefield sent a letter of its own to parents of alumni—“to share some important information regarding our past.” Dated Oct. 20, 2014, the letter laid out the basics of Gregory’s disclosure (without naming him) and encouraged anyone with information about Gleed to contact Lakefield’s third-party investigators: John Callaghan, a senior partner at Gowling WLG; Patrick LeSage, former chief justice of the Ontario Superior Court; and retired Toronto police detective Thomas Klatt, then a managing director of the private-investigations firm MKD International.

Signed by Nick Lewis, then the chair of Lakefield’s board of directors, the letter also contained a further revelation: that another former student had advised Lakefield in 2010—four years earlier—of a separate allegation involving the chaplain. But because that incident occurred after Gleed and the student had left LCS, and because the alumnus was adamant he did not want Lakefield to conduct a comprehensive investigation, the school honoured his wishes. “In light of the recently received allegation, however, it is clear to us that we must now take further action,” Lewis wrote. “These allegations are disturbing and heartbreaking, and we are taking them very seriously.”

Among those who received the school’s letter in the mail was Edward’s elderly mother. When she showed it to her adult son, he broke down—then proceeded to disclose, for the first time, what Father Keith did to him as a Grade 6 student in the mid 1970s.

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“After lights were turned out in the junior residence, Father Keith frequently sat on the side of Eddy’s bed, spoke reassuring words to Eddy and rubbed Eddy’s body, including his neck and back,” reads his statement of claim. “Initially, he did so over Eddy’s bed covers and then, after Eddy became accustomed to this routine and the physical contact, he moved his hands under Eddy’s covers and below Eddy’s waist.”

On weekends, when fewer students slept in the residence, Gleed’s groping grew more intrusive. “Under Eddy’s covers, Father Keith stroked and fondled Eddy’s bottom, anus, inner thighs and scrotum, both over and under Eddy’s pyjama pants,” his lawsuit continues. “While touching Eddy in these ways, Father Keith spoke softly, encouraging Eddy to fall asleep. As his bed was against a wall, Eddy felt trapped and unable to escape from Father Keith’s unwanted touching.”

When Edward moved to a different house in Grade 7, the abuse stopped. One day, however, Gleed invited the boy to his private residence, supposedly to discuss Eddy’s behaviour problems. “When Eddy arrived, Father Keith was dressed only in a short bathrobe,” the claim reads. “When Father Keith sat down on his couch, his bare genitals were exposed. It was only when Eddy responded with unease that Father Keith made light of his exposure and covered himself with a pillow. Father Keith invited Eddy to come back and see him, and said he would answer any questions Eddy had about sexual matters. Eddy did not return to Father Keith’s residence.”

By Grade 8, Edward says he was so damaged by Gleed’s earlier molestations that he transformed into a different kid. He became withdrawn, confused, irritable and racked with self-doubt; he also began to smoke, steal and bully fellow students. His misbehaviour reached a boiling point near the end of 1977, when he and his mother were summoned to a meeting with Lakefield officials—including Gleed.

“Eddy was told he had to leave the school,” his statement of claim says. “The experience of being expelled in this way, with Father Keith sitting in judgment of him and without Eddy ever feeling able to speak about Father Keith’s abuse and betrayal of his trust, was devastating to Eddy.”

***

Gregory launched his lawsuit more than a year ago, in September 2016. Edward’s was filed in March. “My clients are determined to get justice and accountability, and will not be deterred by the prospect of a long court battle,” says Elizabeth Grace, their Toronto lawyer. “However, they are hopeful Lakefield will do the right thing by resolving their cases sooner than later.”

Grace credits the academy for agreeing to pay for counselling—and allowing Gregory and Edward to choose their therapists. “Otherwise, Lakefield has acted like any other defendant in these circumstances,” she continues. “The school is trying to defend itself against serious allegations of sexual abuse of its students by what appears to have been a prolific abuser, and so far it is requiring my clients to go through the rigours of a court process that can often be re-traumatizing.”

For its part, Lakefield says it responded to the revelations about Gleed in a manner “guided by the school’s values, its responsibility to the school community, as well as to the alumni who came forward.” That included communicating “openly and broadly” with all LCS stakeholders while the third-party investigation unfolded. (As Lewis, the board chair, wrote in one edition of Lakefield’s newsletter: “Never has there been a more significant demand on the board’s time than with this issue.”)

Father Keith Gleed (center), as seen in the 1979 Lakefield yearbook.

Father Keith Gleed (center), as seen in the 1979 Lakefield yearbook.

Lakefield also conducted an in-depth review of its policies and procedures, concluding that although they “were consistent with best practices,” there was room for improvement. Says the school: “LCS strengthened its procedures for reporting abuse and amended its policies relating to sexual misconduct, sexual harassment and sexual assault.”

For Gleed’s victims, that is hardly much comfort. The school’s present-day guidelines, no matter how robust, can never erase the damage done. “The expectation was that Eddy was going to be given an exemplary education,” says Edward’s older sister, Kathryn. “The minimum was that he would be safe—and he wasn’t safe. They had in their care an innocent little boy and they didn’t take care of him.”

“His childhood was stolen from him,” she continues. “If this had happened to me, I don’t know that I would have had the courage that Eddy has had to try and live a normal life.”

Like Edward, Gregory has endured so much misery over the years, from depression to anxiety to a paralyzing fear of crowds. He even struggled with bulimia. “I can’t experience joy or happiness,” Gregory says. “I distrust everyone.” Father Keith robbed him of something else, too: a sense of connection to his prestigious alma mater. “I lived there for five years, and was supposed to form relationships, both with the school and my peers, that would last a lifetime,” he says. “However, my wish and expectation of being part of the school community became impossible because I carried the secret of Father Keith’s abuse.”

At the very least, Gregory takes some solace in knowing Gleed’s baptismal font was hauled out of the chapel—though he, too, has no idea where it is now.

Two other friends of Father Keith helped Prince Andrew devise the commemorative font. Terry Guest, who was headmaster of LCS when Gleed was chaplain, carved the font’s wooden base, while Lakefield alumnus Al Pace, a prominent Canadian studio potter, created the basin to hold the holy water. Both men’s contributions to the project were publicized in the school newsletter and in local press coverage of Andrew’s 2008 visit.

Now retired, Guest did not return phone messages seeking comment for this article. Pace replied to Maclean’s with a written statement via Profile Communications, the public relations firm working for Lakefield. “I’m extremely disappointed by the situation and my heart goes out to the victims,” Pace said. “I wish that Keith was here to have the opportunity to respond to the allegations against him.”

Now that the baptismal font is gone, Edward’s sister thinks Lakefield should consider commissioning a new memorial. “How about they put up a monument to the boys who were hurt, as opposed to the priest who hurt them?” Kathryn says. “And how about every year, they take the student body down to that place and say: ‘These are the boys who were not protected—and it will not happen again.’ ”

In the end, Grace says it will be up to Lakefield students and parents—former, current and future—to judge how genuinely committed the school is to confronting a dark chapter in its history. “Unfortunately, Lakefield as a boarding school is not the first to face allegations of this nature,” she says. “I have no doubt parents and prospective students will be watching carefully what happens with these cases.”

Editor’s note: A shorter version of this article appears in the November print issue of Maclean’s.


 

How a royal gift exposed sexual abuse at an elite Canadian school

  1. “WHATEVER THE FULL TRUTH, the revelations about Father Keith….”

  2. I know these men are telling the truth as I was Father Gleed’s next target when he left his position as chaplain at Lakefield to become assistant curate at an Anglican Church in Toronto. Finally, after so many years, maybe the people of that parish will realize I was telling the truth. The people who shunned me, talked about me behind my back in the parish hall, the people who with Father Gleed drove me out of the church.

    • There is an organization called Hope For Men. They can help.

      hope for men.ca

      I believe you. This man has hurt so many.

  3. So many extremely vulnerable people trusted and looked up to this figure from our youths.

    I remember how physical Gleed was with everyone; those hammer holds and hugs all over the place. I was never a touchy feely kind of boy, having been born into a rather “British household” where there was very little hugging or kissing… When I got to Lakefield I was a little out of my depth with all the rugby style rough housing and puppy-dog physicality all around me. And I remember how Keith was so physical with me, hugs and hammer holds and all that…. as he was with EVERYONE else. To me it was just Keith; nothing sinister about it. The Grove was an ideal hunting ground for such a monster. But surely not the only one.

    Is this one of the opening kerchiefs of the seven veils? How many other shattered lives from other venues did he leave in his wake? I hope the Grove lawyers and publicity experts find a way to navigate that thin line between destruction of a great school and acknowlegment and healing for the victims. Somewhere in all this, faith and hope must triumph over the ambient cynicism that rules our age.

    Gleed was a key player in the evolution of my Christian faith. More than forty years after my time at Lakefield I am an active member of our town’s Anglican parish. Tragedy, betrayal, death and corruption are an integral part of our temporal existence. My faith is unaffected by this betrayal of my belief in the person of Keith Gleed. But my God, it is rocked to the base.