A Winnipeg ballet instructor who was fired after former students came forward accusing him of taking nude photos of them has been doing volunteer and contract work at a ballet in Victoria.
Bruce Monk is living in Victoria, where CBC News has learned he actively volunteers and does contracts for Ballet Victoria.
“I was shocked,” said Sarah Doucet, a former student of Monk’s who contacted the ballet earlier this year after seeing a photo of Monk on the company’s Facebook page.
Doucet told CBC in an email she was feeling “shock and disbelief, and fear for the women who were now working with him,” when she found out Monk was with the ballet.
Monk, a renowned photographer, was the subject of a Winnipeg police investigation after multiple women came forward to the media and police alleging he took nude photos of them while they were dancers at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.
Police investigated but never charged Monk. At the time, Manitoba Justice said the Crown reviewed the case and recommended against charges because a conviction was unlikely. The Royal Winnipeg Ballet fired him in 2015. He declined an interview request through his lawyer for this story.
Doucet has launched a proposed class action lawsuit against Monk.
She alleges he took topless photos of her without her consent when she was 16 or 17 during a photo shoot where he allegedly asked her to pull down her straps to prevent them from interfering with her neckline leaving her unitard down around her waist.
She said she contacted Ballet Victoria’s board after seeing a photo of Monk rehearsing with a female company member.
“My first thought was, did anyone ask her if she was OK working in such close proximity to Monk … given the allegations?”
Ballet Victoria’s executive director — a close friend of Monk’s — said he’s aware of allegations, a lawsuit and proposed class action suit against the former Winnipegger, but dismissed concerns about his presence at the ballet.
Paul Destrooper said all the dancers Monk has contact with are adults and he isn’t an employee at the ballet.
‘I trust him’
Destrooper, who had Monk as a teacher many years ago at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, said he knows he’ll face backlash for allowing Monk to be involved in Ballet Victoria.
“I’m standing up for someone no one will stand up for and I’m not standing up I’m actually stating facts. I’m stating the simple truth and the simple reality.”
He maintains Monk is innocent and said because he doesn’t have a criminal record, there is no reason he cannot be part of the ballet. “I trust him,” Destrooper said.
The Royal Winnipeg Ballet said it terminated Monk in 2015 after Maclean’s magazine published a story detailing allegations from past female students who alleged he took nude photos of them during photo shoots at the ballet and his Winnipeg apartment when his wife was not home.
Destrooper said Monk does consulting work for lighting and choreography that’s needed with productions at the ballet, volunteers driving a vehicle around and occasionally does work with dancers at the company.
“I have such a strong stance against abuse,” Destrooper said explaining if he had even the slightest concern about Monk, he wouldn’t be involved with his ballet.
Board members quit after learning about Monk
A couple of board members with Ballet Victoria stepped down and wanted to distance themselves after learning about complaints to police against Monk, but still volunteer with the company, Destrooper said.
“Some of the board was uncomfortable with the media coverage and especially because it was so one-sided and it was so heavily negative.”
Destrooper said he had photos done by Monk during his time at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and didn’t feel uncomfortable with him at all.
Destrooper was clothed for the shoot but said he’s done several nude shoots before with other photographers and wanted to stress it’s not uncommon in the ballet community.
He said in one promo shoot for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet he just wore a dance belt. “If you go back in the archives of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet they published pictures of me wearing just a thong.”
A November case conference is set for the class action. Doucet’s Toronto-based lawyer Margaret Waddell said she hopes a motion for certification will be heard by the court early next year.
Doucet said she has faith the class action will be approved.
“I am confident in the case.”