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Justice is seen to be done;Briefing

CANADA

Three teachers convicted of sexually assaulting students and a fourth who admitted attempted bribery were stripped of their teaching certificates at the first disciplinary meeting ever held in public in Ontario.

The Ontario College of Teachers, set up in 1997, has responsibility for accrediting and disciplining Ontario's 125,000 primary and secondary teachers. Not only are the public now able to see the workings of the disciplinary committee, they also serve on it.

Paul Howard of the Ontario Teachers' Federation - which for the previous 58 years performed these functions - says that in the public's mind the "new system is more transparent". Previously, the OTF's member unions defended teachers accused of improprieties and the OTF itself acted as the tribunal that made disciplinary recommendations to the ministry of education.

Along with Ontario's 31 other professional bodies, the OTC's disciplinary committee uses the so-called Bernstein standard of proof, which differs from the criminal court "beyond reasonable doubt" standard .

The disciplinary committee may find a teacher guilty if there is "clear and cogent evidence" that a teacher "failed to comply with the Education Act" or performed an "act or omission that I would reasonably be regarded by members as disgraceful, dishonourable or unprofessional".

The OTC may reprimand, admonish or counsel a teacher, suspend or revoke a teacher's certificate or fine him or her.

The OTC took less than minute to strip Narcisse Kuneman of Geraldton, Ontario, of his licence on April 8. The charges against Mr Kuneman, who is in prison and has been declared a dangerous offender (which means he can be incarcerated beyond the end of his sentence), stem from events 25 years ago and involve sexual abuse of boys between 8 and 12.

Support for the OTC and its decisions came from the Ontario Teachers' Federation andMarshall Jarvis, president ofthe Ontario Catholic Teachers Association, who praised it for allowing "teachers to police the profession".

The backing comes towards the end of a tumultuous year for Ontario's educators, which has included a two-week strike, changes in school funding and major curriculum reform.

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