The owner of Wallace Driving School and former Victoria newspaper columnist Steve Wallace has died, one day after Black Press Media learned multiple charges of sexual assault against him would not be pursued by Crown counsel.
Wallace, 72, founded his driving school with his wife Joan Wallace in 1976, and had since taught over 25,000 students. He was also an elementary and high school teacher, and mayor and councillor in Quesnel, B.C.
Joan Wallace confirmed her husband’s death in an emailed statement Friday morning:
“With a heavy heart I share with you that my devoted husband of 48 years Steve Wallace passed away at Royal Jubilee Hospital after suffering a heart attack. While it has been a difficult period of time in recent months, I am grateful that he had the opportunity to finally experience the relief from the allegations against him not being pursued, and look to better days ahead. At this time I ask that the media and public respect my privacy, and that of the driving school we built together over 45 years. More information will be made available in the near future.”
In recent months, Wallace faced numerous allegations of sexual assault and inappropriate behaviour by former driving school students he taught. He was arrested in October and was set to appear in court on Thursday (Nov. 25), but Crown counsel decided not to follow through with recommended charges against him.
“After a full review of the investigative material provided by the investigative agency, the Crown counsel assigned to assess the charges concluded that the charge assessment standard had not been met for any criminal offence and no charges will proceed,” Dan McLaughlin, communications counsel at the BC Prosecution Service, said in an email to Black Press Media on Nov. 24.
An earlier investigation by ICBC resulted in the permanent removal of Wallace’s driving instructor license, subject to a 30-day appeal window, and conditions not to go near driving school students. It is not known whether he made that appeal.
Wallace, who moved the driving school to Greater Victoria with his wife when they relocated to the area some years ago, was also well known to the public in Greater Victoria sports circles, having been a regular presence at Victoria Royals and Victoria HarbourCats games. He also wrote a regular driving column for the Victoria Times Colonist, which suspended his column amid the allegations.
One former colleague and longtime friend, former Kitimat Mayor Joanne Monaghan, said she was “devastated” to learn of Wallace’s passing, especially after speaking with him Thursday morning.
“He never had heart problems. I think the stress – that’s what it was,” Monaghan told Black Press Media on Friday morning.
She offered no comment on the allegations against Wallace, except to say in her experience he had always been a gentleman and very kind.
“He was someone who was always fair, courteous and considerate. He always had a lot of energy,” she said. “He was just one of those gentle people. He was very intelligent.”
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