CBC investigation links longtime teacher, band leader to web of historical secrets
WARNING: This article contains details of abuse
It all started with just one woman.
Anne-Marie Robinson said she was 16 when her 29-year-old high school music teacher served her alcohol and she ended up in his bed on an out-of-town band trip in 1977.
Over the next year, she says the teacher groomed and manipulated her into many more sexual encounters: in cars, at school and on other trips.
"He had sex with me once in the classroom, in a closet, and I remember that being humiliating," she said.
Robinson, 62, says she was vulnerable in high school and didn't fully recognize the exploitative nature of a teacher-student relationship. She always wondered if she was the only one he targeted.
A new, 10-episode CBC podcast investigation has found 15 women who claim they were harassed, propositioned or sexually assaulted by the same teacher when they were girls, sometimes for years and in some cases, over the same time period. He taught at seven different schools in the Toronto area between 1974 and 2000.
The teacher, William Douglas Walker, has never been convicted despite complaints to several police forces in Ontario.
The CBC investigation, which unearthed hundreds of pages of official records, access to information filings, and includes more than two years' worth of interviews with dozens of witnesses, reveals a pattern: adults across various institutions who chose to ignore warnings about a teacher who, for decades, moved from school to school, girl to girl.
'He didn't tell the truth'
Robinson, a former deputy minister and president of the Public Service Commission, says she stopped going to Toronto's Eastern High School of Commerce in 1978 to get away from Walker.
A chance encounter with Walker decades later sent her on a search for justice — but when school boards, police and courts failed to provide the answers, Robinson turned to CBC.
"When there's big pieces that are missing, you just feel like you need to know. You need to understand why this happened, what happened, what other people who were around at the time thought about," said Robinson.
Another woman had gone to the Ontario College of Teachers in the late 1990s with a similar complaint about the same teacher. She had gone to the police first, but no charges were laid.
Public documents show the college found Walker guilty of professional misconduct for sexual violations. The regulator's decision didn't mention any other abuse victims.
"He didn't tell the truth and didn't acknowledge the multiplicity of victims that he had," said Robinson regarding the college's tribunal process. "I want him to come clean."
The college fined Walker and banned him from teaching in 2001.
"Walker never used physical force. He used the force of his position of power over me," said the victim whose name was blacked out in the college's decision.
In 2022, an initial CBC investigation tracked down that victim, 59-year-old Jeanie McKay. The resulting CBC story led several more women to come forward to CBC and reveal new allegations of abuse.
Many of those survivors went to school in the York Region outside Toronto. Several attended Markham District High School, including McKay.
"I thought he was our little predator," said McKay, whose experience happened after the teacher moved from Robinson's school.
'System bumped him around'
First-hand accounts from 1974 through the late '80s reveal the teacher went drinking with students at bars, got involved with their adolescent squabbles and controlled his classroom with fear.
He also won teaching awards, found success at music festivals and was a popular, charismatic band leader, according to former colleagues.
"As a member of the teaching profession, he really abused the situation," said McKay, now a teacher in British Columbia. "I'm just angry that the system bumped him around, from school to school."
Some survivors asked not to be named. Even decades after their abusive experiences, the women are still dealing with guilt and shame.
CBC found evidence administrators from different schools were warned about the teacher and his inappropriate sexual encounters with teen girls over many years.
I said, 'Doug, you gotta stop that'
– Peter Samuelson, head of music at Stouffville District Secondary School
In 1975, the father of a teen student informed a principal about the teacher's sexual behaviour with his daughter, the father recently told CBC.
In 1987, a girl told both a principal and a superintendent with the York Region District School Board that Walker had sex with her on a spring band trip.
No one informed the police. Instead, the woman tells CBC she was "slut shamed" by the administration. Walker moved to another school but not before being given an emotional send-off by colleagues and students at an end-of-year concert.
His new supervisor wasn't aware of what had gone on, but noticed Walker getting too close to his teen students.
"I said, 'Doug, you gotta stop that,'" recalls Peter Samuelson, head of music at Stouffville District Secondary School in 1987-88. "I said, 'No physical contact.' To me, that is a big thing, you don't touch girls."
The York Region board told CBC no files exist regarding music teacher Doug Walker and the board provided no further comment.
'I just get angry that what brought us together was him'
CBC sent the former teacher a series of questions and requested an interview, but he declined the opportunity. While Walker doesn't deny having sex with his teen students, he contends they were consensual relationships.
He also provided an apology.
"I have dug deeply and agonizingly into my past, attempting to seek all possible reasons for why I behaved as I did," Walker wrote in an email to CBC. "Nonetheless, I conclude that I, and I alone must bear the responsibility for my inexcusable behaviour … and do not expect, in any way, to be forgiven."
Over the course of the CBC investigation, many survivors met each other and took some comfort in knowing they aren't alone.
One woman says she was just 14 when the teacher molested her at school and on band trips in the mid 1970s.
"I just get angry that what brought us together was him," said the survivor.
Finding and supporting these victims has become a key priority for Anne-Marie Robinson, along with advocating for legislative change to help prevent abuse in Canadian schools.
"We can't move forward as individuals or as a society if we keep this stuff secret. Keeping this secret has not done anyone any good," said Robinson.
Support is available for anyone who has been sexually assaulted. You can access crisis lines and local support services through this Government of Canada website or the Ending Violence Association of Canada database. If you're in immediate danger or fear for your safety or that of others around you, please call 911.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Julie Ireton is a senior reporter who works on investigations and enterprise news features at CBC Ottawa. She's also the host of the CBC investigative podcast, The Band Played On found at: cbc.ca/thebandplayedon and The Banned Teacher found at: cbc.ca/thebannedteacher You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca