The Ontario legislature has announced this week that it is considering amending the Ontario College of Teachers Act and the Early Childhood Educators Act to expand the list of sexually abusive conduct requiring mandatory licence revocation. The potential update responds to concerns that the current scheme, put in place in 2016, defines sexual abuse too narrowly, and allows abusers to re-offend. The changes may track those made to the Regulated Health Professions Act last year.
The sections of the Ontario College of Teachers Act and the Early Childhood Educators Act dealing with sexual abuse by teachers were last amended by the Protecting Students Act, 2016. The amendments made licence revocation mandatory where a teacher is found guilty of listed forms of professional misconduct, being:
1. Sexual abuse of a student, if the sexual abuse consisted of, or included, any of the following:
i. Sexual intercourse.
ii. Genital to genital, genital to anal, oral to genital, or oral to anal contact.
iii. Masturbation of the member by, or in the presence of, the student.
iv. Masturbation of the student by the member.
v. Encouragement of the student by the member to masturbate in the presence of the member.
2. A prohibited act involving child pornography
(Ontario College of Teachers Act s.30; equivalent criteria are set out in Early Childhood Educators Act s. 33)
Under the current Acts, however, unlisted forms of sexual abuse do not lead to mandatory licence revocation. Penalties for unlisted forms of sexual abuse are imposed at the discretion of the Ontario College of Teacher’s disciplinary panel. The panel can revoke the licence of a teacher found guilty of non-listed forms of sexual abuse, but this is not the only possible result of a hearing before the disciplinary panel.
The Toronto Star reports that it has identified 27 cases since 2012 where the disciplinary panel transferred a teacher to a new school after disciplining that teacher for sexual, physical, psychological, or verbal abuse, or serious misconduct. A third of these teachers eventually re-offended. Further, according to the Toronto Star’s report, there is no requirement that the principal of the school receiving the transferred teacher is informed of the teacher’s past offences.
The Toronto Star reports Shazia Vlahos, a spokesperson for Education Minister Indira Naidoo-Harris, has announced that the Ontario government has announced that it plans to align the grounds for mandatory revocation of teaching licences with those made in the Protecting Patients Act, 2017, which updated the Regulated Health Professions Act.
The 2017 amendment to the Regulated Health Professions Act added “touching of a sexual nature of the patient’s genitals, anus, breasts, or buttocks” to the list of forms of sexual abuse requiring mandatory licence revocation (Regulated Health Professions Act s. 51 (5) 3. vi.). It also granted the health minister power to define other forms of sexual misconduct as professional misconduct requiring mandatory healthcare licence revocation (Regulated Health Professions Act ss. 43 (1) (u), 51 (5) 3. vii.). Before the 2017 amendment, the sexual acts constituting professional misconduct requiring mandatory licence revocation outlined in the Regulated Health Professions Act were almost identical to those currently outlined in the Ontario College of Teachers Act and the Early Childhood Educators Act.
This blog post was written by a CCLA-PBSC RightsWatch student. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCLA or PBSC.