Ontario Takes Action to Protect Students and Children
MAPLE — To further protect students and children, Ontario is becoming the first Canadian jurisdiction to publicly disclose and make parents and guardians aware of educators that have been involved in sexual abuse and other serious criminal proceedings. Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, joined by Jane McKenna, Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues, announced this change to ensure that parents are aware of information related to the safety and security of their children and to deliver greater transparency for families. The Government also announced that all certified educators must now complete a comprehensive mandatory sexual abuse prevention program – the only province in Canada to do so.
While these actions build upon other measures the government has taken to combat professional misconduct in schools and child care settings, it is clear that more must be done to inform parents of criminal proceedings before a verdict is imposed.
Minister Lecce has already announced a series of actions to strengthen safety, including:
- Lifetime bans on any educator who has engaged in physical sexual relations with a student or is involved in any way with child pornography.
- The lifetime ban imposed on educators for engaging in physical sexual abuse of students and children also applies retroactively for previous similar acts by teachers and early childhood educators whose memberships were reinstated or were not revoked in the first place.
- A requirement that both the Ontario College of Teachers (OCT) and the College of Early Childhood Educators (CECE) provide funding for therapy and counselling to students and children who are victims of sexual abuse, a prohibited act involving pornography or prescribed sexual acts prohibited under the Criminal Code (Canada).
- A requirement to make publicly available information about disciplinary decisions made by the Colleges’ Discipline Committees, including for less serious acts leading to reprimands and admonishments, on the OCT and CECE registers and websites on a permanent basis.
The Government of Ontario is taking further action now by giving clear authority to the OCT and CECE to make information public about criminal proceedings involving their members on the public registers. In the interest of transparency, parents are able to know which educators have been involved in criminal proceedings that are relevant to their practice, when such information is known to the Colleges.
“Our government takes a zero-tolerance approach for anyone who would abuse or threaten children,” said Minister Lecce. “I ensured that any educator involved in this heinous criminality faces a life ban from working in any school or licensed child care program again, along with a permanent record on a public registry. We are going further by making information about criminal proceedings related to teachers and early childhood educators public with one aim: to protect the safety of Ontario’s children.”
These changes are some of the ways the Ontario government is taking action to make the education profession more accountable to families, with a zero-tolerance approach to crimes against students and children.
In addition to promoting greater transparency, the government is firmly committed to prevention by stopping sexual abuse before it begins. As of January 1, at the direction of the Minister of Education, the OCT has put in place a sexual abuse prevention program that all certified OCT members in good standing are required to complete by September 15, 2022. New and returning OCT applicants from January 1, 2022, are required to complete the sexual abuse prevention program (along with all other certification requirements) to receive their certifications. For the CECE, completion of the sexual abuse prevention program will form a component of all members’ continuous professional learning, beginning in July 2022.
Educators across Ontario ensure that students and children have access to high-quality education and child care that support their learning, development and well-being. Whether it is in classrooms, child care facilities, including EarlyON Child and Family Centres, or before- and after-school programs, these dedicated professionals are helping to put students and children on a path to success. The Ontario government values the important role that educators across the province play to support young learners and give them the best start in life. These changes are focused on protecting what matters most – our students and children – with the full support of the OCT and CECE.
- The Ontario government has released Keeping Students Safe – Policy Framework for School Board Anti-Sex Trafficking Protocols, which requires all school boards to put in place local anti-sex trafficking protocols. The government is also investing $2.4 million in necessary training and resources to ensure school boards and school staff have the tools to recognize, identify, respond and prevent the sex trafficking of children and youth.
- In the elementary Health and Physical Education curriculum, which was updated in 2019, students learn to recognize and assess potentially dangerous situations, including online scenarios. Students learn skills to identify, develop and maintain healthy relationships, to identify and respond to exploitive and coercive behaviour, and how to seek help as needed. Students learn strategies and decision-making skills that can be used to prevent or respond to situations of verbal, physical, and social bullying, and sexual harassment.
“The safety of children in every classroom is our top priority. To help ensure every learning environment is free from abuse, we’re taking decisive action to provide parents with information on educators who have been involved in sexual abuse or other serious criminal proceedings.”
– Jane McKenna
Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues
“The College has been working with the government to better protect student safety inside and outside of the classroom. We are pleased to see more proactive steps toward providing the public with greater protection and strengthened accountability.”
– Diana Miles
Council Chair, Ontario College of Teachers
“Transparency is key to our student safety mandate. We will always welcome improvements that strengthen the public register’s role as a vital resource for parents and families.”
– Dr. Derek Haime
OCT, Registrar and CEO, Ontario College of Teachers
“The College of Early Childhood Educators shares the government’s commitment to safeguarding Ontario’s youngest learners and welcomes these changes, which reflect our practice of transparent information-sharing and the profession’s commitment to ongoing learning and the protection of children.”
– Beth Deazeley
Registrar and CEO, College of Early Childhood Educators
“We support the steps taken by government today to further protect children and youth at schools and in child care settings. We welcome opportunities to continue working towards changes that centre on the rights and holistic safety of children and youth and support vulnerable children, youth and families.”
– Nicole Bonnie
CEO, Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies