'I'm a demon inside': Teacher convicted of sex crimes sought treatment

A former music teacher convicted of sexually abusing students at two Ottawa high schools sought treatment from more than a dozen psychologists and psychiatrists — and even asked to be castrated — all while he continued working with children.

For 23 years, Ottawa music teacher Bob Clarke sought psychiatric help to control his 'sick' urges

Former high school music teacher Bob Clarke was convicted in March of sex crimes involving eight students in the 1970s, '80s and '90s. A risk behaviour report filed with the court reveals he repeatedly sought psychiatric treatment during that time. (Bell High School yearbook photo)

A former music teacher convicted of sexually abusing students at two Ottawa high schools sought treatment from more than a dozen psychologists and psychiatrists — and even asked to be castrated  — all while he continued working with children.

A risk behaviour report filed with the Ontario Court of Justice reveals retired teacher Bob Clarke, now 74, began seeking professional help as far back as 1969.

Clarke taught at a number of Ottawa schools between 1968 and 1992. In March, he pleaded guilty to sex crimes involving eight teenage boys at two high schools, Bell and Sir Robert Borden, during the 1970s, '80s and '90s. He's currently serving a two-year prison sentence.

CBC News has learned Clarke sought treatment over a period spanning 23 years.

"If he was trying to get help, the system failed us. It failed him as well as me and the other victims," said John Myers, one of Clarke's victims at Bell High School in the late 1970s.

The 2017 sexual behaviours assessment, commissioned by Clarke's lawyer and produced by the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre, concludes Clarke fell through the cracks.

"It appears that his behaviour was either minimized by assessing psychiatrists or his care was transferred to other psychiatrists and he was lost in followup and discharged from treatment," wrote the report's author, Jonathan Gray, a staff psychiatrist with The Royal's sexual behaviours clinic.

John Myers attended Bell High School in the late 1970s, when he was victimized by Bob Clarke. (Julie Ireton/CBC )

"By the time he was assessed by Dr. Bradford in 1992 … he was already out of his teaching position and the damage was done."

Neither Gray nor any other psychiatrist at The Royal agreed to speak to CBC about the report, citing privacy reasons.

John Myers, a victim of sexual abuse by former teacher Bob Clarke, reacts to a report which reveals Clarke sought treatment for 'sexual dysfunctions' as early as 1969. Clarke is currently serving a two-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to sex crimes involving eight teen boys in the 1970s through the 1990s. 0:48

'Just castrate me'

CBC asked the court to unseal the 25-page report. A judge and Clarke's defence lawyer agreed to the request, but only after victims' names and certain sections of the report had been redacted.

It shows Clarke began to voluntarily seek therapy in 1969, his second year of teaching. He told a psychiatrist then that he was becoming fed up with his own inappropriate comments in front of students.

"He said he became very upset and told the psychiatrist to 'just castrate me,'" according to the report.

At the time, Clarke denied touching students. But in 1975, he admitted himself to The Royal after an encounter with a teenager in his neighbourhood.

"Mr. Clarke recently touched a 15-year-old boy and may have charges laid against him," noted Clarke's 1975 hospital records.

Police questioned Clarke at the time, but no charges were laid.

Bob Clarke is currently serving a two-year sentence in federal prison. (Laurie Foster-MacLeod )

A 'long-standing problem'

The report details how Clarke sought treatment from more than a dozen psychologists and psychiatrists, some in private practice, others at The Royal's clinics.

I'm a demon inside and my subconscious sometimes overrides my conscious mind.- Bob Clarke, quoted in risk behaviour report

"Clarke explained that inappropriate comments and behaviour have been a long-standing problem for him. He said as early as Grade 8 he had asked a group of other peers if they could have a 'sex club,'" the report states.

It's unclear exactly what Clarke told his various therapists over the years about any inappropriate physical contact with his students.

"I've made mistakes. I'm so sorry for having hurt them," Clarke is quoted saying in the report. "My own analysis is that I'm a demon inside and my subconscious sometimes overrides my conscious mind."

In a 1975 yearbook photo, Bob Clarke conducts the Bell High School band. (Bell High School yearbook, 1975)

A 'sick puppy'

Clarke would eventually plead guilty to a gross indecency charge stemming from allegations made by John Myers, now 57. Myers consented to the court lifting the publication ban on his name.

On multiple occasions, Clarke masturbated in front of Myers, asking him to join in. Once it happened while they were sitting together on a chairlift during a band trip to the West Coast.

Bob Clarke regularly sought treatment at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

During the 2017 interview with Gray, Clarke was asked how he felt about doing these things to Myers.

"I felt disgusted with myself. I thought, 'You're a sick puppy,'" Clarke told the psychiatrist.

Myers, who now struggles with his own mental health issues, has read the report.

He was mentally ill and he didn't get the care he should have gotten.- John Myers , former student and victim of Bob Clarke

"It was very emotional for me to read it," he said. "I've always had the panic attacks and I've had anxiety and depression, and the doctors directly relate all my problems back to the Bob Clarke days."

Myers, who has also sought treatment at The Royal, maintains some sympathy for his former teacher.

"I do in a way feel sorry for him," he said. "He did seek help…. He was mentally ill and he didn't get the care he should have gotten."

Dr. Paul Fedoroff is director of The Royal’s sexual behaviours clinic. (CBC)

Forced out of teaching

During the entire time Clarke was seeking treatment, he remained in close contact with students, and was often alone with them.

"He was able to create situations in which he was alone with his male students and act out sexually with them," wrote Gray.

A former music teacher convicted of sexually abusing students at two Ottawa high schools sought treatment from more than a dozen psychologists and psychiatrists. 8:41

Clarke was forced to resign from teaching in 1992 because of repeated sexual misconduct toward mainly male students, the report states.

But it was only in 2017 that Gray's report recommended Bob Clarke "should be prohibited any unsupervised access ... any employment or volunteer positions in which he is in a position of trust and authority over males under the age of 18."

Duty to report

Medical professionals and therapists have a legal duty to report if they suspect a patient is harming or has the potential to harm a child.

The current director of The Royal's sexual behaviours clinic, Dr. Paul Fedoroff, wouldn't comment directly on the Clarke case or the 2017 report.

But he said if a teacher came to him today admitting to inappropriately touching a student, he'd be obligated to report the matter to the Children's Aid Society for followup.

He also said programs now in place can effectively treat people with sexual attraction to children through counselling, peer support and medication.  

"You can stop the pathway," Federoff said. "All sexual behaviours are under voluntary control."

About the Author

Julie Ireton

Senior Reporter

Julie Ireton is a senior reporter who works on investigations and enterprise news features at CBC Ottawa. You can reach her at julie.ireton@cbc.ca