Dawson College theatre teacher accused of harassment, bullying no longer employed by CEGEP
MONTREAL -- The Montreal CEGEP professor accused of harassment and bullying by as many as two dozen former students is no longer employed by the school.
CTV News confirmed on Friday that it had severed ties with Winston Sutton, a longtime teacher in Dawson College's professional theatre department.
"Effective today, Winston Sutton is no longer employed by Dawson College," a news release issued Friday from the CEGEP reads.
A spokesperson for the CEGEP refused to say if the school fired the teacher, saying simply that there were complaints and an investigation and that he is no longer an employee.
The allegations against Sutton include public humiliation, inappropriate comments about students’ weight and looks, sexual comments, and suggestions that the students undress for each other.
"This is not a happy moment, there's a lot of collateral damage," said one of his accusers, Kayleigh Choiniere, saying she has empathy for the other alleged victims, as well as for Sutton's family. "No part of this is a happy moment – but it's a very big emotion that I can't describe."
Choiniere said she has been working to bring the allegations to light for the last three years and feels the end of Sutton's employment marks an end to fear and helplessness for herself and others.
"There's closure in that, but it's not end. It's just the beginning of the process," she said.
Choiniere said she spoke directly with Andrea Cole, the dean of creative and applied arts, before the announcement was made. Cole thanked her for coming forward and said the school took the allegations very seriously.
Some of the allegations go back as far as a decade, and they have trickled out over the past three years. Sutton was suspended in 2017 but returned to teaching a short time later.
"I would like to acknowledge receipt of the complaints and the many messages sent to the College," said Richard Filion, director general of Dawson College in a statement. "To the people who came forward with concerns and complaints, I would like to sincerely thank you for your courage. Each has been read and carefully considered."
Another woman who made allegations against Sutton, Grace Gordon, said action should have been taken sooner.
"I think this should have ended in 2017," she said. "I don’t think myself and another colleague who had emails from this teacher needed to come forward at this time. We did need to come forward in order for change to happen, but I think that this should have ended in 2017 when more than 25 women came forward."
TEACHER ALLEGEDLY MADE SEXUALLY INAPPROPRIATE COMMENTS
One student told CTV News that when she was 18, he made many comments about her appearance and body, as well as her sex life.
"For the interest of self-worth and self-esteem, he said that I should use a dildo and my fingers to pleasure myself," she recounted.
Another student claimed there were long emails and conversations about sex.
"I remember very clearly him telling me to go home and open up the faucet and let the water drip on myself and to try to experiment with other objects to kind of prepare my body for when I do eventually have sex," she said.
The statement said the CEGEP is "planning a course of action to ensure that a healthy culture prevails in the program and in the world of theatre."
Last week, Dawson College confirmed Sutton was not teaching this fall and on Wednesday the department published a statement saying it is committed to drawing an action plan to make "concrete changes" following the allegations.
In Friday's statement, Filion addressed the former students, saying, "To those who have been hurt, I would like to offer our sincere and heartfelt apology and our commitment to change. Your complaints and messages are already leading to changes and are serving as a foundation for the way we move forward."
- with a report from CTV News Montreal's Rob Lurie
An earlier version of this story said Winston Sutton was fired by Dawson College, and has since been clarified to say he is 'no longer employed.'