Barry’s Bay – Our Lady Seat of Wisdom (SWC), a private Catholic Liberal arts college, has launched a third-party independent investigation into sexual abuse allegations regarding a former music instructor, as well as promising to pay for counseling for witnesses or survivors.
The full report into the allegations of sexual misconduct by Uwe Lieflander is anticipated by early March.
The German national was at SWC from 2007 to 2017 and was also involved in choirs in Ottawa. It was there he was charged by police with sexual assault. He is apparently residing in Germany at present with no evidence of any time in jail or curtailment of his movements and continues to post on his YouTube channel.
There is an outstanding arrest warrant for him issued by the Ottawa Police and he will be arrested if he returns to Canada. The arrest warrant was issued almost three years ago, in January 2019. The 58-year-old remains on the wanted list of the Ottawa Police.
The Barry’s Bay based college announced last Thursday they retained Elizabeth Grace, partner of Lerners LLP in Toronto, to conduct a third-party independent investigation and uncover the facts surrounding the allegations as they relate to SWC and its community of alumni, students, staff and faculty members.
“The SWC motto states, Veritas vos liberabit, which compels us to seek an objective, thorough investigation,” a release from the college stated.
The moto means, “the truth will set you free.”
Contacts for those wishing to come forward were provided both through the school and also with Ms. Grace.
“SWC intends to move forward in a trauma-informed manner,” the release continued. “We will cover up to $150 per session for up to seven sessions of counselling for each witness or survivor who comes forward. The choice of a certified therapist will be theirs.
“We will keep our community informed of progress with the investigation. While we cannot know in advance what course the investigation will take, our hope is that we will be able to release a report of conclusions by March 1, 2022,” the release concluded.
The Ottawa police Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Unit (SACA) began an investigation into Mr. Lieflander in early 2018 into allegations of sexual assault dating from 2016 to 2017. Charges stem from incidences when he worked as a choir director and music instructor in Ottawa. As a result of the investigation, an arrest warrant was issued and he will be charged with sexual assault upon his return to Canada.
According to a release from the Ottawa Police, SACA investigators are concerned there could be additional victims. The investigation is ongoing.
Anyone with information regarding this investigation is asked to call the Ottawa Police Tip Line at 613-236-1222, ext. 5760.
Anonymous tips can be submitted by calling Crime Stoppers toll-free at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS), or by downloading the Ottawa Police app.
At the local collage, the issue is not only one of a former professor but also a former student. In an earlier release this summer from the college it was noted, “Mr. Lieflander was charged with sexual assault in 2019 in relation to incidents that allegedly took place in Ottawa with a former student. We are deeply saddened by this case and the suffering endured by the victim.
“Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College remains committed to providing our students, staff, and faculty with a safe learning and work environment,” the release, which was issued this summer, stated. “We educate all of our stakeholders on a regular basis on questions of sexual harassment and abuse, and how they should be addressed. We have strong policies and procedures in place to handle allegations of harassment or abuse, and we communicate them clearly to all incoming members of the College community. We welcome complaints of sexual abuse and harassment and want to promote a spirit of openness and comfort around disclosure of such incidents so that they can be dealt with in a thorough, just, and proactive manner. We also welcome scrutiny that holds us to a high standard in this regard.”
The release noted in regard to Mr. Lieflander’s case, “there is no claim that the abuse happened on campus, and we received no indication of any such behaviour during the time of his employment. We received no complaints of abuse or harassment regarding his conduct at SWC. When we learned of this case involving a former student, we acted swiftly, leading to the end of his employment with us.”
A Catholic blogger identified one of the alleged abuse victims, and the one who appears to have first gone to Ottawa police, as someone who grew up in the Barry’s Bay area and attended the college. That account did state the subsequent alleged rape occurred after the young woman had left the college, however, the grooming allegedly began while he was at the college. The rape was later reported to police in Ottawa, according to the report.
During his time at the college, Mr. Lieflander was involved in musical performances in the community, including at St. Hedwig’s Church, which the college is located adjacent to. In a release from the college in 2012, he was the director of a Christmas concert at the church.
“Music is an integral part of Our Lady Seat of Wisdom’s liberal arts program,” a release stated at the time. “All students at OLSWA take Chorus in their first year, where students learn about the riches of the Church’s musical tradition, and personally experience the beauty of choral singing for the weekly Academy Mass. Students also have the opportunity to take a variety of voice, instrument, and music pedagogy classes taught by Maestro Liefländer, including the Ecclesiastical Schola class which performed at the concert.”
The release continued, “Choir director Maestro Uwe Liefländer received his credentials from the famous Regensburg Academy for Church Music in Germany, and for the last several years, he has taught at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom. He is the founding director/conductor of Canada’s Sacred Music Society. At Toronto’s World Youth Day in 2002, Maestro conducted the 500-member World Youth Day Choir for the Papal Mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II.”
He founded the Sparrows Choir School Program which teaches and performs classical music in schools and private academies in various Ontario locations.
During his time in Canada, he was leading choirs not only in Ottawa and Barry’s Bay but also Toronto and Port Perry. According to media reports, he led elementary school choirs with the Ottawa Catholic School Board but quit when told he was not allowed to touch the young singers after complaints from parents about his “hands-on” teaching method. He was noted to play tag with students and lift them in the air.
While there may be an arrest warrant for Mr. Lieflander in Canada, it appears to have no impact on his freedom of movement in Europe, where he currently resides. On his YouTube channel, he recently documented his trip through Europe from Germany through to Spain and into North Africa. It is interesting to note a few weeks ago he also posted a video of an earlier performance in Ottawa with the Ottawa Sparrows Choir from 2016. He also has videos of his time at SWC.
The release from Our Lady about the third-party investigation being conducted included contact information and timelines.
“If you have information regarding any form of sexualized misconduct perpetrated by Uwe Lieflander during the period of 2007–2017, we encourage you to support this investigation by sharing it,” the release stated. “You can do so by reaching out to Ms. Grace directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org OR calling her at 1-833-913-7718. If you prefer to share information with a current employee of SWC, you can contact Dr. Natasha Duquette, Vice-President Academic, at: email@example.com.”
The release noted after reviewing the information she receives, at her discretion Dr. Duquette will forward information to Ms. Grace for her consideration and/or follow up as she deems appropriate. Anyone wishing to participate in the investigation is asked to reach out to no later than February 4, 2022.