A former Ottawa high school teacher charged with sex crimes against young students was granted bail Monday with a number of conditions.
Rick Watkins, also known as Rick Despatie, is facing 54 charges including sexual assault, voyeurism, sexual exploitation and assault with a weapon relating to alleged incidents from 2004 to 2021.
Bail conditions include not contacting several people or their families, not being within 500 metres of where those people would be, not being within 500 metres of the school, and not attending any public parks or public swimming areas where kids under 16 would reasonably be expected to be.
None of the allegations have been tested or proven in court.
Watkins was a teacher at St. Matthew High School in Orléans. After his initial arrest in April, more than a dozen people came forward to police, leading to new charges.
One parent, who asked to remain anonymous, says she “witnessed Mr. Despatie going into dressing rooms” of the girl’s hockey team.
She says parents complained to school officials about Watkins’ behaviour for years and that he also offered her daughter and others rides in his own vehicle alleging, “He used their peers against them and constantly punished any child strong enough to speak out against his abuse or his abuse against others.”
Dozens of former students and parents allege there were inappropriate offers of massages, Tylenol and questions about menstrual cycles.
“That should be an immense red flag,” said former student Nicolaas de Krom. “It’s not like he had the door closed when he was talking about this stuff. He would shout it throughout the entire hallway and none of the teachers batted an eye, it was like ‘oh fun loving Mr. Despatie’ … you should be a little concerned about this.”
In response to the latest charges, the Ottawa Catholic School Board said Watkins is no longer an employee. The director of education had previously apologized to students. The board said it has also launched a review into how previous allegations against Watkins were handled and that it is “working with the Canadian Centre for Child Protection to provide training on professional boundaries update policies” and create a culture of reporting and investigating incidents of concern.
“You know what you saw and I hope the guilt gnaws away at the teachers who did absolutely nothing and knew that they should’ve done something,” de Krom said.
Watkins’ lawyer said in an e-mail she did not want to comment.