Advocates share excitement over provincial promise to better investigate teacher misconduct

Child protection advocates say it is long overdue but they are thrilled about a promise to better investigate teacher misconduct in Manitoba schools.

As part of the throne speech Tuesday, the Manitoba government said it will set up an independent body to handle complaints about educators, which it says will be accountable and transparent.

Peter Hamer is part of the group Stop Educator Child Exploitation. He was sexually abused by his music teacher in the 1980s and says this is an announcement he has been lobbying for.

“I’m speechless. I’m so thrilled to see this step,” said Hamer. “(The abuse) stayed with me for a long time.”

Reflecting on his situation, Hamer said reporting what happened was difficult and there was no obvious place to turn.

“I did finally go to the principal. He really didn’t do anything other than say, ‘What do you want me to do?'”

The Canadian Centre for Child Protection said the independent body should hear complaints, investigate, adjudicate and level sanctions, and it should be made up of specialized staff.

“(People) who actually have credentials and expertise and background in child sexual abuse and grooming,” said Noni Classen, the director of education at the Canadian Centre for Child Protection.

A recent report by the centre found that between 2017 and 2021, 252 current or former school personnel in Canada committed or were accused of offences of a sexual nature against at least 548 students.

“We want to see the oversight exist but also that we can truly understand the scope of the problem.”

In a statement to CTV News, the union that represents teachers says it’s in consultation with the province about this.

“Sharing our concerns and positions about the definition of misconduct, structure and composition of an independent body, due processes for managing misconduct, protecting privacy rights and balancing public transparency,” the statement said.

The Canadian Centre for Child Protection said sanctions could range from corrective action to revoking a teacher’s certificate.

The centre noted if an independent body is made up of the proper investigators who specialize in this area, teachers would be better protected from false claims than they are now, as nothing like this currently exists.

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