‘A procedural nightmare’: Christopher Ng, guilty of sexual abuse, could retain his teaching license for years

Christopher Ng, a former teacher who pleaded guilty to sexual assault of a student last week, is no longer certified by the Ontario College of Teachers and cannot teach in Ontario public schools, the college confirmed.

He, however, remains a member of the Ontario College of Teachers. It could take years to kick him out, owing to the college’s “inefficient” and “overly formal” internal disciplinary system, according to a lawyer familiar with it.

A teaching license can only be revoked by the college, which must conduct its own investigation, allow Ng to seek legal counsel and hold a hearing to decide his case.

The college could not confirm when or if a disciplinary hearing for Ng will happen and it does not yet appear on its schedule of upcoming hearings.

It’s a “procedural nightmare” to strip a teacher of their license, said Jordan Donich, a lawyer whose firm has represented clients at OCT disciplinary hearings for sex offences.

“It’s not an efficient process, which means it drives up costs, stress and agony for everyone,” he said. “The victim wants it over. They don’t want to deal with it for two or three more years.”

Danielle Han, who Ng was convicted of abusing for seven years, beginning when she was 16, said it’s frustrating how glacial the college’s process is. Her goal de ella with bringing her abuse to light, she said, was to ensure Ng would lose his license de ella, so that he could “never be a teacher again.”

“It’s not even guaranteed his license will be revoked, even though it’s implied,” said Han in an interview with the Star on Wednesday. “One of the biggest shocks to me was that he was still in ‘good standing’ even after he was charged.”

Ng, who taught music St. Theresa of Lisieux Catholic High School in Richmond Hill, was charged with sexual assault in 2020. He remained an Ontario College of Teachers member in “good standing” on the college’s website until 10 days after his conviction April 27 .

“You would assume, once there is a conviction, they would get their license automatically revoked,” Han said. “Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen that way.”

If the college’s disciplinary hearing is carried out and concludes Ng sexually abused a student, his license will be revoked, a spokesperson for the OCT told the Star in an email Tuesday.

But it could be a year before the case is heard before the college and another year until a decision is made, Donich said. It depends on whether Ng plans to fight allegations the college may raise against him.

Ng’s lawyer, Dean Embry, did not return a request for comment by publication time.

The OCT has a wider latitude to pursue misconduct than courts. Aberrant yet non-criminal behaviour, such as flirting, texting or hosting inappropriate meetings with students, would not be subject to criminal trials, but teachers can be punished for them by the college.

The college can also impose fines of up to $5,000 and require the member to reimburse the college for victim therapy costs, which the province requires the college fund in cases of sexual abuse.

In a February news release announcing measures to make parents more aware of teachers involved in sexual abuse proceedings, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the government takes a “zero-tolerance approach for anyone who would abuse or threaten children,” which includes instituting lifetime bans for abusive educators.

“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.”

The release, entitled Ontario Takes Action to Protect Students and Children, makes no mention of the fact the process to institute this lifetime ban can take years, even if a criminal conviction has already been handed down.

If a teacher has been found by a court of law to be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of sexually abusing a student, and the position of the government of Ontario is that any teacher involved in sexual abuse be banned for life, why is the ban not instant?

“Criminal proceedings and college proceedings are separate processes,” said Andrew Fifield, OCT spokesperson. “A (college) member may receive judicial consequences as a result of a criminal proceeding but those are separate from the college’s proceedings. Only the college’s discipline committee can revoke a member’s certificate after a discipline hearing has been held.”

Asked to comment on its view of the college’s license revocation process, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, a union representing Ontario teachers, declined, writing, “This is an OCT matter, and we have no say in it.”

Ng’s teaching status is currently listed as “Inactive/Non-Practising,” which bars him from teaching in Ontario public schools. This designation is also given to retired teachers or teachers suspended for not paying the annual membership fee.

It is also the designation given to teachers suspended for sexual misconduct.

Inactive/Non-Practising status is distinct from a membership being “revoked,” which requires a committee ruling. Practically, they are similar in that a teacher with either status cannot teach in the province’s public schools, but an inactive status can be made active again.

It is, categorically, not a lifetime ban.

Ben Cohen is a Toronto-based staff reporter for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @bcohenn


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