Durham Catholic school board teaching assistant faces child pornography charges: police

A Whitby, Ont. man is facing several charges after Toronto police conducted a raid in a child pornography investigation.

Police say the man was a teaching assistant at various Catholic schools with Durham Catholic District School Board. Joseph Vermulst, 32, of Whitby has been charged with making, possessing and distributing child pornography.

Det. Sgt. Paul Crawczyk says their child exploitation unit received a tip.

“I can’t go into details of it,” said Crawczyk, “but the information we got had us concerned, and that’s why we acted on it very quickly.”

Vermulst was arrested on Tuesday after police conducted a raid at a residence near Thickson and Rossland roads, where police say the suspect was making and accessing child pornography. What was most concerning to police, they said, is that he was employed by the DCDSB as a teacher’s assistant.

“Anyone facing these types of charges who has a close association to children and would work closely, daily with very young children, that’s always a concern for us,” Crawczyk said.

Vermulst was immediately removed from his position after the charges were brought forward. Most recently he worked for Good Shephard Catholic School in Port Perry. Before this, police say he worked for the following schools:

  • St. James Catholic School, from April 1, 2016 to Aug. 31, 2016
  • Father Fenelon Catholic School, from Sept. 1, 2016 to Aug. 29, 2018
  • St. James Catholic School, from Aug. 30, 2018 to March 15, 2019

In addition to this, officers working on the case say he worked as a long-term occasional educational assistant at the following schools from 2013 to 2016:

  • St. Bernard Catholic School, from Sept. 3, 2013 to Jan. 31, 2014
  • St. Andre Catholic School, from Aug. 28, 2014, to Jan. 28, 2015
  • St. Josephine Bakhita Catholic School, from Aug. 28, 2104 to Jan. 23, 2015
  • St. James Catholic School, from Sept. 1, 2015 to March 31, 2016

Officials with the Durham Catholic school board, meanwhile, say they are working closely with investigators and have sent letters home to parents.

In a statement released to Global News, staff say the Durham Catholic District School Board (DCDSB) is “shocked and deeply disturbed to learn about this police matter that has impacted our community.”

“We remind the broader community to make us aware immediately of any concerns about student safety that may arise at any time,” the statement continues.

Police didn’t say if there were any victims at this time, but Crawczyk says given the length of time he worked with children, it is always a factor they look at.

“It’s always a concern for us, always something we’re looking into,” he said.

“It’s important for us to release this information about the arrest as well as his picture to ensure that nobody has been affected.”

The charges still have to be proven in court.

Investigators are working with the school board and Durham Police in the matter. Anyone with information is asked to contact police at 416-808-8500 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-TIPS (8477).

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