Names of driving teachers who sold booze, cigarettes, visited strip clubs during lessons kept secret
|Report an Error|
Share via Email
Ontario driving instructors have been stripped of their licences due to inappropriate — and in some cases illegal — activity, including selling alcohol and contraband cigarettes to students, visiting a strip club during an in-vehicle lesson and selling driver education certificates to students.
But the Ministry of Transportation says the public, including novice drivers and their parents, has no right to know who these instructors are. Roughly 300 have lost their licence in the past three years.
The policy of keeping the names of these driving instructors secret contrasts sharply with standards for other provincially licensed professions, including doctors, dentists and teachers. The governing bodies for these and other professions publish the names of those whose licences have been revoked.
Torstar News Service is seeking the names of driving instructors who have had their teaching licences revoked in the past three years in an effort to determine if any are still getting behind the wheel with beginner drivers.
“I would not want my daughter in that vehicle,” said Anne Marie Hayes, president of Teens Learn to Drive, a non-profit organization with the goal of reducing traffic accidents, commenting on the reasons drivers lost their licences. “Parents put a great deal of trust in driving instructors and, as a parent, I would be very upset to learn that my daughter’s instructor had this kind of a history.”
Torstar asked the Ministry of Transportation for the names of these instructors last year as part of an ongoing probe by Torstar of GTA driving schools. The ministry refused, so Torstar appealed to the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario on the grounds that the release of the names concerns public safety.
tar investigation last year exposed dozens of unlicensed driving schools in the GTA offering in-car lessons to beginner G1 drivers. The probe highlighted the fact that the ministry does not monitor driving schools it does not licence, thereby allowing unlicensed schools to operate without oversight.
In its arguments submitted to the commissioner this month, the ministry revealed for the first time examples of the reasons driving instructors had their licences revoked. These include:
- Selling driver education certificates to students;
- Using sexist and obscene language with students;
- Selling alcohol and contraband cigarettes to students;
- Visiting a strip club during an in-vehicle lesson;
- Issuing certification to students who had not completed a course;
- Taking money from students who had completed courses and not issuing certification to these students.
But the ministry goes on to say that the names of these instructors should not be made public because the information is of a “personal nature.”
“Disclosure of the information would be an unjustified invasion of personal privacy,” writes ministry lawyer Todd Milton in the government’s submission. “The fact of the revocation is in itself highly sensitive and may unfairly harm the reputations of at least some of the third parties.”
Milton goes on to say that the health and safety aspect of Torstars request “should be accorded little weight in this case.”
When asked how his ministry could justify keeping the names of these instructors secret, Transportation Minister Glen Murray did not respond.
Instead, ministry spokesperson Bob Nichols was assigned to handle the Torstar’s questions. In an email Nichols said the minister and the ministry “take very seriously both the public’s right to know and an individual’s right to privacy.”
Nichols refused to say whether the ministry reports illegal activity, such as selling contraband cigarettes or selling driver education certificates, to police.
“The ministry takes action as soon as possible based on its own authority instead of waiting to respond to the results of criminal investigations and potential court proceedings,” he wrote.
The province’s submission to the Information and Privacy Commissioner reveals that, in the last 18 months, six revocations were made under the “fit and proper” criterion, which states that the ministry may revoke a driving instructor licence if “the licensee is not a fit and proper person to be a driving instructor, having regard to his or her character, integrity and past conduct.”
Thirty-nine licences were revoked due to convictions under criminal statutes or the Highway Traffic Act, including those revoked under the “fit and proper” criterion. A further 50 instructor licences were revoked due to driver licence cancellations, 123 were revoked for accumulated demerit points and 86 were revoked due to driver licence suspensions or cancellations arising from medical issues and unpaid fines, among other things.
Under Ontario’s graduated licensing system, new drivers first get a G1 licence by passing a written test. After a year, new drivers can take a road test to graduate to a G2 licence (this time period is shortened to eight months if new drivers take lessons from a ministry-approved school). After another 12 months, G2 drivers can take another road test to obtain their full G licence.
Students who complete the ministry-approved beginner driver education course can obtain a discount on their car insurance.
The ministry does publish online the names of provincially monitored driving schools that have had their licences revoked, but refuses to make the reasons for the revocations public. The province does not publish a list of individual licensed driving instructors.
“If an instructor circumvents the rules, puts others at risk, or engages any illicit activity, they need to be identified and prohibited from instructing drivers,” said MPP Jeff Yurek, transportation critic for the Progressive Conservatives.
“There are a variety of different licensed professionals that operate in this province. For most of these professions, online databases are maintained that allow the public to verify the status of licences. I don’t understand why such a simple solution eludes the Ministry of Transportation.”
, one of a handful of master driving instructors in Ontario (meaning he is qualified to teach other instructors), said he was “shocked” to learn what some driving instructors had been caught doing and said the ministry has no defence in choosing not to release these instructors’ names.
Like Yurek, Pollock said driving instructors should be treated like other provincially licensed professions, such as doctors and teachers.
“Anybody should be able to go on the MTO’s website, and access a database that can tell them whether an instructor is in good standing or not,” he said, adding that unless the ministry makes the names public, beginner drivers have no way of knowing if instructors who have lost their licences are still teaching.
Torstar has until the beginning of May to make its submission arguing for the release of the names to the Information and Privacy Commissioner.