A former music teacher and church worship leader facing a charge of sexual assault of a minor took the stand in Kelowna court on March 17.
Neil Wong was charged after a young girl, who will be referred to as Jane Doe to protect anonymity, told her mother that her music teacher had been touching her in ways she didn’t like.
Doe was called as a witness on the first day of the trial on March 16. She appeared by video from the Child Advocacy Centre in Kelowna.
While on the stand, Doe alleged that Wong would reach up under the back of her shirt and stroke her bare skin with his hands during her piano lessons. She alleged that he would often slide his hand around and touch her tummy, sometimes moving his hands up to touch her bare nipples. She also alleged that Wong would hug her and on one occasion touched her behind in a way that she didn’t like. Doe said that she did not like hugging Wong and would try to “squirm” away from the embrace, but never voiced her discomfort.
When asked by the defence lawyer if Wong ever corrected her posture during the lessons Doe said that he did, but that the inappropriate touching she alleges to have experienced had nothing to do with education.
Wong, however, told the court on day two of the trial that he would use his index fingers to correct Doe’s posture, as he did with all his students. He explained that he would do this by placing one finger on the small of their back and another on the student’s chest, over the clothes.
While on the stand Wong maintained that he was not guilty and disagreed with all suggestions that he engaged in inappropriate touching. He told the court that he never touched Doe’s bare skin and never initiated a hug.
Wong described Doe as “obedient,” “pleasant” and particularly physically affectionate.
“I noticed on the very first day she was very touchy-feely.”
Under direct examination Wong said that during the first lesson with Doe, while her father was present, she hugged him. Wong said that he discussed the hug after the class with her father. Wong alleges that her father was not concerned and said that they are just a “huggy”(sic) family.
The trial has been postponed as the Crown prosecutor has requested to call Doe’s father as a witness.
The Crown prosecutor asked Wong if he had ever worked as a professional educator in the school system. Wong said that he had, for a period of time.
In 2013, Wong was charged with secretly observing and recording nudity. Wong was working as a music teacher at Kelowna Secondary School at the time of the allegations.
In 2014 Wong received a conditional discharge, for the offences. After abiding to the terms of his probation Wong requested to have the file closed, and removed from his public record and sexual offender registry.
Prior to the trial, the Kelowna RCMP released a statement requesting that families of other students of Wong contact them. No additional charges have been laid since the public request.
While on the stand Doe said that she didn’t come forward just for her own benefit. “I’m worried about the other kids that are [Wong’s students].”
The trial has been put off until a later date as the Crown seeks to call the father as a witness.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. See the sexual assault fact sheet provided by Victim Services and Crime Prevention. You can also call your local police or VictimLinkBC for information and support.