Retired Ottawa Professor Punished for Sexual Abuse of Student in the 1990s

Retired Ottawa teacher and athletic trainer Peter Des Brisay lost his teaching certificate after an Ontario Teachers College disciplinary panel found him guilty of professional misconduct stemming from the sexual abuse of a former student in the late 1990s. 1990.

Thursday’s hearing came nearly three years after Mary Jane Richards filed a formal complaint with the university, which governs and regulates the province’s teaching profession.

The college issued a hearing notice last June listing the allegations against Des Brisay.

Richards, who attended Bell High School and was a three-time national cross country champion, described years of sexual abuse by her teacher and running coach in a CBC investigation last year.

Des Brisay has never faced criminal charges in this case.

A formal statement submitted to the university’s disciplinary panel and agreed to by Des Brisay details the years of sexual grooming and exploitation Richards endured during her time at Bell between 1990 and 1996.

Richards attended the virtual hearing and read a victim impact statement, but Des Brisay did not attend or comment. He was represented by an attorney.

“I know that my abuser will not take any responsibility. I have known that for a long time,” Richards said after the hearing.

Mary Jane Richards and Peter Des Brisay pose together in this photo taken at a track meet when they were teenagers. (Submitted by Mary Jane Richards)

‘He took advantage of her’

Des Brisay began coaching Richards when he was 13 years old and in the ninth grade.

What had started out as something akin to a father-daughter relationship eventually crossed the line to include inappropriate massages, explicit emails and sexual intercourse.

Danielle Miller, an attorney representing the university, said at the hearing that the facts in the agreed statement support the finding of misconduct.

Miller explained that the university and its rules against sexual abuse did not actually exist when the misconduct occurred, so the panel was unable to make an official conclusion of “sexual abuse.” She said Des Brisay’s calculated and manipulative actions could qualify as sexual exploitation and abuse.

“He took advantage of her,” Miller said. “If he had shown consideration for her welfare, he would have controlled her wishes.”

Mary Jane Richards on the track at the Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club, where Peter Des Brisay coached her in the 1990s. Richards read a victim impact statement at her former coach’s disciplinary panel. Des Brisay did not attend the hearing. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

The disciplinary panel handed down the harshest possible sanctions: an oral reprimand and the revocation of Des Brisay’s teaching certificate. Des Brisay retired from teaching in 2020.

In his victim impact statement, Richards said he could write “hundreds of pages and never adequately describe the number of victims he has caused, or how much he changed the trajectory of my life.”

She described the impact of the abuse and said she has trouble developing healthy relationships and trusting people, especially men.

“I completely lost my balance and had overwhelming feelings of shame, guilt, sadness, pain, betrayal, humiliation and anger. For many years after the relationship, I suffered from extremely low self-esteem, because I saw myself as worthless, disposable “. and worthless,” Richards said.

In an interview after the hearing, she said she’s relieved it’s over.

“My goals in doing this were accountability and harm reduction,” Richards said.

“He’s getting an oral reprimand and harm reduction is the revocation of his license. He won’t be able to teach anymore, so I’m satisfied.”

Richards, who is now an attorney in Ottawa, also works with other survivors of child sexual abuse, working to improve safeguards for students in schools across the country. He came to CBC with his story after a CBC investigation and podcast exposed other cases of abuse at Bell High School from the 1970s to the 2000s.

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