Former Ontario Teacher Who Filmed Students’ Cleavage Found Guilty of Voyeurism

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled the 27 students’ privacy had, in fact, been violated.

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Feb 14 2019, 5:52pm

Images via CP / Wikipedia Commons

A former teacher who filmed 27 students with a pen camera was found guilty on Thursday of voyeurism by Canada’s Supreme Court, which overturned two acquittals by lower courts.

London, Ont. high school teacher Ryan Jarvis was arrested after police learned he had recorded conversations with 27 students, aged 14 to 18, between 2010 and 2011. While he talked to them, he was also secretly recording them with a pen camera, pointed at their chests.

In 2015, a judge acquitted Jarvis, ruling that while the videos were an invasion of privacy, they weren’t necessarily made for a sexual purpose. The Ontario Court of Appeal upheld the acquittal in 2017—while two of the three judges on the panel believed that the videos were made for asexual purpose, they argued that the students didn’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy while at school, where they were frequently on camera, citing surveillance cameras in the building as an example.

Jarvis had defended his actions by saying he hadn’t violated anyone’s privacy because the videos were made in common areas of the school and students knew that other people could be looking at them. The Supreme Court of Canada rejected that position, comparing the situation to a change room in a public pool, where women could expect that others could see them getting undressed by others in the change room, but wouldn’t expect to be covertly recorded.

“For one thing, she would expect to be observed only by the other women in the change room and not by the general public,” said the unanimous decision. “She would also expect not to be photographed or video recorded while undressing, either by other change room users or by anyone else.”

A student “certainly expects that she will not be singled out by the teacher and made the subject of a secretive, minutes-long recording or series of recordings focusing on her body,” the decision continued.

Jarvis is also facing a disciplinary hearing from the Ontario College of Teachers for allegations of sexual, psychological and emotional abuse, as well as unprofessional conduct.

Privacy lawyer David Fraser praised the Supreme Court decision, describing the reasoning as “nuanced.”

“It recognizes that privacy isn’t this simply binary, on or off sort of thing,” he told VICE News in an interview. “It’s not just that, ‘Oh, you’re in public, therefore you have no expectation of privacy,’ which certainly some people have said.”

“The decision takes into account that there are factors that need to go into determining whether or not one has a reasonable expectation of privacy,” he said. “It’s contextual. It also deals with the technology angle in a sensible way because certainly I’ve heard people say as part of the debate on this sort of stuff — ‘Hey, if I could see it with my eyes, what’s the difference if I can record it with a camera?’”

The decision recognizes the “subtle shades” of the debate, said Fraser.

“While you might know that you could be observed… and maybe a fleeting glance of cleavage could be lecherously observed, there’s a difference when you interpose a camera, particularly a covert camera, that wouldn’t be part of the reasonable expectation,” said Fraser. “Therefore, that camera is intrusive of [the woman’s] reasonable privacy interest, and particularly the way it was being used.”

Fraser said the decision could also be applied to dealing with things like upskirt photography.

“If somebody is wearing a short skirt, they would understand when they enter into the world what can be observed by people of average height,” Fraser explained. “And so, having a camera at a very unusual angle invades the expectation of privacy that they’ve established by what they’ve worn, and that use of that technology is unreasonable.”

“I think this is a victory for people who are concerned about privacy or individual personal autonomy. I think it is a really helpful addition to the existing jurisprudence and case law related to privacy.”

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