Advocates Urge Provincial Governments to Protect Students from Abuse

Anne-Marie Robinson, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and co-founder of Stop Educator Child Exploitation, is leading efforts to improve protections for children in schools across Canada. Her advocacy aims to address systemic flaws and heal herself in the process.

Robinson’s research into education laws in all provinces revealed alarming gaps in protections for children, including issues with accountability for school boards, independence for investigators, and inadequate responses to new challenges like online grooming. Her efforts have garnered attention from lawmakers and officials in Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Manitoba.

Manitoba stands out as the frontrunner, having passed the Education Administration Amendment Act on May 30 to enhance protections for children. The new law appoints an independent commissioner to review and adjudicate complaints of teacher misconduct, including sexual offences. Manitoba will also establish a public teacher registry to disclose disciplinary actions against educators.

Robinson co-founded Stop Educator Child Exploitation (SECE) with other survivors of school sexual abuse. The group collaborates with the Canadian Centre for Child Protection to raise awareness and press ministers of education to address systemic flaws. The centre’s report revealed over 540 victims reporting sexual abuse in Canadian schools between 2017 and 2021.

Survivor involvement has been pivotal in shaping policy proposals, as survivors’ voices have helped lawmakers understand the lifelong impact of abuse. Their participation is considered “game-changing” by Noni Classen, director of education at the Centre for Child Protection.

While Manitoba has taken significant steps, other provinces, like Ontario and Alberta, are also making progress. Quebec is closely examining the issue. Robinson and another SECE co-founder, Peter Hamer, have engaged with education officials in Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan to push for further improvements in student protection.

Although education falls under provincial jurisdiction, there is room for a pan-Canadian approach, particularly in tracking teacher movements across provinces. Data and reporting on abuse cases are lacking, making it challenging to determine whether the situation is improving or worsening. Robinson believes the federal government can take a leadership role in research and policy development to support the provinces.

Despite the challenges, Robinson is determined to protect children and prevent future abuse. Her policy work has been transformative, contributing to her own healing journey.

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James Richards
As a member of our class action practice group, I act for survivors harmed by institutional abuses in both class action and individual civil sexual assault claims. I believe that every harmed person deserves to be heard and advocated for.