The Hongcouver
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Teacher who had sex with pupils in Canada ended up at prestigious Chinese school

Robert Robertson quits Beijing’s Huijia Private School but issues extraordinary rebuttal, including emails of support from Chinese schoolgirls saying he is loved

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 September, 2017, 8:02am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 September, 2017, 11:28pm

More than 40 years after he was caught having sex with pupils in Canada, teacher Robert John Robertson’s past has caught up with him in China.

Robertson resigned from the prestigious Beijing Huijia Private School on Friday after Canadian media reported on his new life in China, where he had been teaching physical education and communications and coaching girls in volleyball, soccer and softball.

The 66-year-old was finally banned from teaching in Canada last year after regulators ruled that in 1976 he had sex with three schoolgirls. But authorities had been investigating him for years. Separate probes were launched by the Richmond School Board in 1976 and the British Columbia College of Teachers (BCCT) in 2006, but on both occasions Robertson resigned while the investigations were incomplete. In 2008 he went to China to teach.

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In an extraordinary rebuttal, Robertson told the South China Morning Post on Saturday he had done “nothing wrong” and suggested Huijia knew about his past. He depicted one victim of what he called his “indiscretions” as a “psycho-sexual predator”. She was aged 15 when they started having sex.

We believe you didn’t do that. And you are the best PE teacher forever. And we also love you forever
An email from a purported student of Robert Robertson

Robertson also forwarded emails of support, purportedly from Chinese pupils, that included their names and email addresses. The SCMP did not solicit the emails and has not tried to contact the children, apparently aged as young as 13.

“[You] are the best PE teacher forever. And we also love you forever,” wrote one girl. “We all love you Bob!” wrote another.

Some of the pupils’ emails to Robertson dismissed accusations against him as “gossip”.

“We don’t know who made up the story for what evil intention” and “I don’t believe the internet”, two purported students write.

‘His liaisons were not secret’

In a 4,000-word statement sent to the SCMP, Robertson depicted himself as the victim of a miscarriage of justice in Canada, with investigations slanted “in order to deflect responsibility for hiring me”.

The statement was also sent to the Vancouver Sun, which first reported on Friday that Robertson was working in Beijing.

Describing his “indiscretions” as the result of “drug and alcohol induced stupidity”, Robertson went on to accuse two education officials of conspiring against him, supposedly because he knew one had an extramarital affair, and the other was a “practising homosexual” who propositioned him.

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He was also scornful of one of his then-schoolgirl accusers. “The commissioner called ***** ‘vulnerable’. I hardly see it that way. She was more like a psycho-sexual predator. She was EXTREMELY promiscuous and was having sex with many people when she was going out with me,” Robertson said.

She was more like a psycho-sexual predator. She was EXTREMELY promiscuous
Robert Robertson describes a 15-year-old pupil with whom he had sex

However, Robertson did not deny the underlying case against him: that in 1976 he had sexual relations with pupils aged 15 and 16 when he was a young teacher at the Richmond School Board in BC.

In February 2016, Robertson was ultimately stripped of his teaching certification by the Teacher Regulation Branch (TRB) of BC. He was never criminally charged. The TRB said that the parents of one girl went to police but eventually declined to pursue the case.

The TRB said Robertson’s misconduct towards the girls was “egregious”, and included having sex in his school office and on a school trip to the Mediterranean where he was meant to be a chaperone. On another occasion cited by the BCCT and the BC Appeal Court, he was caught by police having sex with a schoolgirl in a car in parking lot.

“In his position as a teacher he exploited the vulnerability of three 15-16 year old female students…his liaisons were not secret,” the TRB said.

Neither Huijia’s principal, Wang Zhize, nor the school’s HR department responded to emailed requests for comment. But a statement posted on the school’s website said it had conducted a “rigorous background investigation before [Robertson] joined in 2011. He provided legal proof that he had no criminal record”. There had been no complaints against him at Huijia, the statement added.

But Robertson suggested the school was aware of the accusations against him: “I did NOTHING wrong! The school knew of this a long time ago and requested a NEW criminal background check which I sent them!”

He said Huijia asked him to resign on Friday, and he had done so unwillingly. “I have a one-year contract and feel they should honour it,” he said.

Robertson has denied sexual relations with one of the three girls cited by the TRB. But notes taken by a policeman who looked into Robertson in 1976 indicated he admitted to the officer having sexual relationships with all three girls, according to a 2014 BC Appeal Court ruling that the BCCT investigation was legally justified.

‘Was I not a victim?’

Over the course of more than seven hours on Saturday, Robertson sent a series of emails to the SCMP that included statements arguing unjust treatment, nine forwarded emails from current or former pupils, his résumé, his 2011 job application to Huijia, Canadian police clearance letters and details of his other work with children in China.

Before joining Huijia – one of the most expensive private schools in Beijing with average annual tuition of 220,000 yuan (US$30,500) – Robertson’s résumé says he worked at Sino-Canada High School in Jiangsu. He also said he volunteered at a migrant workers’ school and an orphanage, played Santa Claus, and raised money for children with facial deformities.

He used [their] trust to feed his ego and for his own sexual gratification
Teacher Review Board of BC

“I have taken an entire kindergarten in the village under my wing…Not a day goes by that I have not turned my remorse for [my] actions into something positive,” he said in his statement.

While claiming remorse, Robertson said the case compiled against him by the Vancouver School Board, prior to the BCCT investigation, had been “orchestrated to make me look really bad”, and he too had been victimised – by one of the schoolgirls. He said he intended to sue the Vancouver School Board and two officials from the Richmond School Board.

“Was I not a victim when ***** held my head in her lap when I was semi-comatose and enticed three of her girlfriends to fondle me…was I not the victim when ***** appeared at my apartment in Vancouver with a girlfriend and convinced my landlord [to] let her into my apartment,” Robertson asked.

He said he was a “chronic alcoholic” at the time, and therefore unable to avoid putting himself in such situations, “where people can take advantage”.

The TRB differed.

“As someone entrusted by the public [Robertson] failed…he used [their] trust to feed his ego and for his own sexual gratification,” the board wrote in its 2016 decision stripping Robertson of certification.

However, it said it was also “troubling” that Robertson’s sexual liaisons with the girls had been widely known among other students and teachers.

On the Mediterranean cruise, which Robertson chaperoned, “the relationship with the 15-year-old was openly conducted with the obvious knowledge of other teenage students”.

Overall, “other teachers knew or suspected what was going on between the respondent and the teenaged girls under his supervision”, the ruling said. “To the [TRB] panel, it is clear, the respondent had a reputation.”

Forty years later, that reputation is now known in China, too.

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The Hongcouver blog is devoted to the hybrid culture of its namesake cities: Hong Kong and Vancouver. All story ideas and comments are welcome. Connect with me by email ian.young@scmp.com or on Twitter, @ianjamesyoung70.