A former Calgary teacher is facing 17 sex-related charges for the alleged abuse of six students two decades ago, Global News has confirmed.
Calgary police launched an investigation last September after a woman came forward stating that in the summer of 2001, her teacher at John Ware Junior High School undressed her and other female students during a canoe trip not sanctioned by the school, exposing them to him and their peers.
During the course of the investigation, Calgary police sex crimes detectives identified five other women who also alleged sexual misconduct by the same teacher while they were students between the years of 1999 and 2005.
Staff. Sgt. Michelle Doyle with the CPS sex crimes unit said she could not give details on the circumstances around the other assaults, but said all the girls were “junior high school-aged.” She said there was “consistency of the reporting” of the assaults.
Michael Gregory, 57, is charged with six counts of sexual assault and 11 counts of sexual exploitation.
Police said Gregory was a teacher at John Ware Junior High School from August 1986 until September 2006.
He is accused of abusing using his position of trust to groom female students and get them into situations where sexual abuse could take place.
“There can be a lot of confusion and mixed emotions when a young person experiences exploitation by someone they trusted,” Doyle said. “It can often take many years before the person looks back on it and realizes that what happened was not okay and that it needs to be reported.”
She went on to explain that young people cannot give free and informed consent for any sexual activity with a person in a position of trust and authority over them.
Speaking to Global News on Thursday, Alberta Sexual Assault Services CEO Dem Tomlinson said there can be several reasons victims are hesitant to report a sexual assault.
“One of (the) biggest barriers in coming forward is our public response to crime is overwhelming, victim-blaming,” she said. “They are afraid people won’t believe them.”
Tomlinson said “sexual assault is always a crime of power and control.”
“Sometimes the person who does harm has a great deal more power or authority than the person they are harming,” she explained.
“The degree of influence over that person is even greater, which makes that relationship even more difficult for survivors to unpack and understand, and that would make some reluctant to come forward.”
As the investigation into these incidents is ongoing, police are asking anyone with information to call the Calgary Police Service’s non-emergency line at 403-266-1234 or to contact Crime Stoppers anonymously.
In Canada, there is no time limit on how long a victim has to report a sexual assault.
In an emailed statement, the Calgary Board of Education said it was “aware of the charges laid against a former employee.”
“The CBE has and will continue to cooperate with the Calgary Police Service during this investigation,” the board said.
The CBE would not say whether any complaints or allegations of misconduct against Gregory had been lodged with the board or the school, prior to these charges being laid, citing the ongoing investigation.
— With files from Global News’ Heide Pearson