Teacher charged in 2017 death of student who drowned on Algonquin Park trip
Codi Wilson, CP24.com
Published Thursday, July 26, 2018 8:37AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, December 5, 2019 11:52AM EST
A 54-year-old Toronto teacher has been charged in connection with the death of a 15-year-old student who drowned on a school trip to Algonquin Park one year ago.
Fifteen-year-old Jeremiah Perry, who was a student at C.W. Jefferys Collegiate Institute in North York, was on school canoe trip at Algonquin Park on July 4, 2017, when the incident occurred.
He was in Big Trout Lake with several other students when at one point, officials said, Perry disappeared under the water and did not resurface.
The teen’s body was located the following day by search and rescue divers.
In the days that followed the drowning, the boy’s father confirmed Perry and his other son, who was also on the field trip, did not know how to swim.
The school board later revealed that Perry was among 15 students on the trip had not passed the required swim test.
In a news release issued Thursday, OPP said an investigation was launched into the incident and police have now filed charges against 54-year-old Nicolas Mills, who police confirm was a teacher at Perry’s school.
Mills has been charged with criminal negligence causing death.
“The OPP conducted a thorough and professional investigation, which included over 100 interviews, along with the execution of one search warrant and four production orders,” OPP Const. Catherine Yarmel told CP24 Thursday morning.
She said Mills was tasked with designing the Algonquin Park trip itinerary and was also responsible for the overall supervision of the trip.
She added that he was in Algonquin Park with the students at the time of the drowning and was the designated team leader for Jeremiah Perry’s group.
Teen's father says charges are 'warranted'
In a written statement released Thursday, Perry’s father Joshua Anderson said his family has been living in a “constant state of shock and sadness.”
“This last year has felt like an eternity for my family and I, but we understand that it takes time to fully investigate a tragedy like this,” Anderson said.
He added that the OPP was in regular contact with the family over the last year.
“We are relieved that the investigation has resulted in criminal charges being laid against the teacher who organized and lead Jeremiah’s trip. We believe these charges are warranted under the circumstances,” the statement continued.
“Although nothing that happens now can bring back Jeremiah or take away the pain of losing him, we hope that having the case proceed through the criminal justice system will be one important step in ensuring that a tragedy like this never happens again on a school trip.”
Speaking to reporters at an unrelated news conference on Thursday, Mayor John Tory said he could not comment on the details of the case as it is before the courts.
“I can tell you I went to the funeral for that boy and I met his family and I stood next to his casket quite frankly and it was just one of those things where you said to yourself that kind of thing shouldn’t happen,” Tory said.
“It is not up to me to assess or decide on blame for that. The courts and other places will do that but I will just say that I think when it comes to whether it’s field trips to Algonquin Park or whether it’s day-to-day traffic circumstances that we all collectively as a community… have an obligation to keep kids safe.”
Internal investigation will resume, TDSB says
Following Perry’s death, the Toronto District School Board implemented new policies surrounding field trips.
"Our safety requirements last summer we believe were sufficient and had they been followed, a number of people that did go on this trip, would not have gone because obviously as we made clear last summer, a number of them did not pass the swim test which should have made them ineligible to go on the trip in the first place," TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird said.
"Having said that, we have further strengthened checks and balances on trips such as this. So for example, before a trip could leave, a principal would have to review each and every piece of documentation to ensure that those swim tests and other tests were complete."
Bird said parents and students will also now receive the results of the swim test.
"Parents will acknowledge those results as well so that everyone involved in that trip knows if that person can swim or not," Bird added. "Depending on the trip, if it is a portaging trip like this one was, if you can’t swim you are not going on it."
The TDSB released a statement Thursday and said that the criminal charges "limit" what details can be discussed about the case.
"We can say that we hold Jeremiah’s family in our thoughts at this difficult time and we will continue to support them in any way we can," the statement read.
"We remain deeply troubled by our findings released last summer that critical safety requirements, such as passing a swim test, do not appear to have been followed by the lead teacher supervising the trip."
Throughout the investigation, the TDSB said it has "cooperated" with police and the Crown Attorney's office and will continue to do so.
"The TDSB can now resume its internal investigation, which was suspended last year at the direction of the OPP. In the meantime, Nicholas Mills remains on home assignment, where he has been since Jeremiah’s tragic death," the statement concluded.
Mills is scheduled to make his first court appearance at the Ontario Court of Justice in Toronto on Sept. 11.