Family of P.E.I. teen files civil lawsuit against sex offender, arts organizations

CHARLOTTETOWN — The family of a girl who was sexually abused by a Prince Edward Island actor involved in a theatre production in Charlottetown has filed a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator and two arts organizations on the Island.

The lawsuit, which is seeking $1.5 million in damages, was filed last week after 37-year-old Aaron Philip Crane pleaded guilty to sexual interference and was sentenced Jan. 5 to six years in prison.

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The civil action, which names Crane, the P.E.I. Arts Guild and Anne and Gilbert Inc., alleges that complaints about Crane's inappropriate sexual behaviour were not acted upon by staff at the arts facility or the production company that was leasing the building.

The lawsuit also names Allana Jankov, chief executive officer of the P.E.I. Arts Guild, and Campbell Webster, who is identified in the lawsuit as director and executive producer of the musical production "Anne and Gilbert."

The girl, whose identity is protected from publication by a court order, was under 16 at the time of the abuse. Details of the case that would identify her cannot be published.

The allegations in the statement of claim, filed on Jan. 8 with the Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island, have not been proven in court.

An email sent to the P.E.I. Arts Guild seeking comment from Jankov and Webster did not receive a response from either person.

However, the Guild's board of directors issued a statement acknowledging the severity of the issue, but noting that the perpetrator and victim were not employees of the Guild.

"To date, no employees of the Guild or its board have been contacted by the authorities regarding the matter," the statement says. "Given that the Supreme Court (of Prince Edward Island) has issued and upheld a publication ban, we will not be commenting on the specifics of the claim."

A representative for Anne and Gilbert Inc. issued a statement saying it would be "irresponsible and potentially illegal for our organization to make any public statement about the allegations made in a lawsuit filed about this matter."

"Through our legal counsel, we will be presenting our position in this lawsuit and we are confident in the ability of the courts to make a fair decision on this matter, based on evidence."

The statement of claim alleges that Crane groomed his victim for a sexual purpose on the Guild's premises.

It also alleges that Webster and Jankov knew or ought to have known that Crane's inappropriate behaviour had at one point "intensified in plain view" of those involved with the Guild, and there was commentary circulating "that Crane was a 'pedophile.'"

As well, the lawsuit alleges Webster and Jankov knew or ought to have known that a stage manager had lodged a complaint regarding Crane's inappropriate behaviour. However, Crane refused to comply with requests to leave the girl alone, the lawsuit says.

According to an agreed statement of facts cited in the sentencing decision from P.E.I. Supreme Court Justice Terri MacPherson, Crane met the girl at a young age and started grooming her for "sexually intrusive contact."

The decision confirms that the pair's conduct drew the attention of a stage manager, who told them they were not permitted to be together in private "because people were throwing the word 'pedophile' around."

Crane was undeterred by this direct cautioning, the judge said in her decision.

When the girl's parents discovered the girl had received questionable texts from Crane, they asked police to intervene. The officers told Crane to leave the girl alone, but he ignored that request, the decision says.

"Not even this level of caution stopped Crane from continuing to have regular, daily sexual interaction" with the girl, the judge said.

Crane was arrested in March 2020 after the victim disclosed the nature of their relationship to a counsellor, court heard.

MacPherson's decision also says that police later learned Crane had been confronted by some colleagues and was warned to end the relationship "on numerous occasions" before he was eventually fired from his position.

Crane pleaded guilty to the charge on Sept. 30, 2020.

The statement of claim alleges that Jankov and Webster knew or ought to have known that Crane had previously been the subject of complaints about inappropriate sexual relations with young female cast members.

The civil lawsuit also alleges that those working at the Guild failed in their duty to report Crane's behaviour to the girl's parents, police and child protection services.

"Inappropriate touching occurred openly on the premises,'" the statement of claim says.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 13, 2021.

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