B.C. novelist files defamation suit over sexual assault allegations

Steven Galloway’s lawsuit also accuses two dozen other people of repeating the accusations on social media

The former chair of the creative writing program at the University of British Columbia is suing a woman, claiming she falsely accused him of sexual and physical assaults.

Steven Galloway’s lawsuit also accuses two dozen other people of repeating the accusations on social media.

The lawsuit filed by the novelist in the B.C. Supreme Court claims he was defamed and suffered damage to his reputation. It asks for damages and an injunction preventing the defendants from repeating the allegations, as well as having them removed from the internet.

“The defamation began with false statements by (the woman) to several other defendants, who recklessly repeated and asserted the truth of the accusations both within UBC and publicly on the internet, including on Twitter,” the statement of claim says.

Galloway was suspended from the university in November 2015 while an investigation was completed into what the school said were serious allegations of misconduct.

In December of that year, the university asked a former B.C. Supreme Court judge to investigate complaints against Galloway. Mary Ellen Boyd’s report, submitted in April 2016, has never been made public.

Galloway was fired that June.

A labour arbitration decision later ordered the university to pay Galloway $167,000 in damages for statements the school made during the process that violated his privacy rights and harmed his reputation.

However, the faculty association withdrew its claim to have Galloway reinstated to his post without giving details. The issue of whether the university had cause to dismiss the professor was no longer contested.

Galloway’s statement of claim, filed on Friday, says he had a consensual romantic affair that lasted two years with one of the defendants. Unless consent has been granted, The Canadian Press does not identify those who allege they have been sexually assaulted.

The statement says both were married, and their affair was adulterous. It asserts that the woman made the false allegations to “deflect blame and create a false narrative to portray herself as innocent in the affair.”

None of the allegations made in the statement of claim have been proven in court and no statements of defence have been filed.

The woman could not be reached for comment, but a lawyer who represented her previously, including during Boyd’s investigation, says no client of hers has been served with a claim.

“It appears the plaintiff took the story directly to the press,” Joanna Birenbaum said in an emailed statement.

Birenbaum directed The Canadian Press to an open letter posted online that she wrote to university president Santo Ono, asking him to release Boyd’s full report to her client.

“UBC’s refusal to disclose an unredacted copy of the Boyd Report to (the woman) is preventing her from responding to defamatory attacks on her character and causing harm and damage to her reputation,” says the letter, dated Aug. 29, 2018.

Attached to the letter were excerpts of redacted sections of the Boyd report that she received.

The document says Boyd accepted the woman’s allegations that Galloway made increasingly inappropriate sexual comments and advances towards her over a number of months in late 2010 and 2011.

“I find that (the woman) found herself in a situation where the ‘stakes were high’ since she believed that unless she tolerate this conduct, her acceptance into the MFA (master of fine arts) program and other special treatment she had been promised … might be in jeopardy,” the letter says.

Galloway responded to a request for comment with a statement saying he was prohibited from discussing matters related to his termination.

He said Birenbaum’s comments deflect attention away from his claims that the woman made multiple false and malicious allegations against him, “the most destructive of which includes sexual assault.”

“I have already apologized for my consensual relationship with (the woman); I deeply regret it, but I do not accept her lies or attempts to promote herself and profit from them.”

Galloway’s lawyer, Daniel Burnett, said the lawsuit is about far more severe accusations than those mentioned in the redacted Boyd report.

Galloway said in a statement issued in November 2016, shortly after the Boyd report was released to him, that on the balance of probabilities the retired judge found he had not committed sexual assault.

In an article written for the National Post that was published in July, Galloway wrote that he did not assault his accuser, referred to as the Main Complainant or MC.

“A highly respected former B.C. Supreme Court judge, Justice Mary Ellen Boyd, after conducting an exhaustive, five-month investigation, determined that she was ‘unable to find’ that any of MC’s allegations happened, and that not a single one of the ancillary complaints constituted any form of misconduct,” he said.

The lawsuit names 24 other people for allegedly repeating the allegations of sexual and physical assault. The Canadian Press attempted to reach many of those named, although some use a pseudonym and others are only identified as John or Jane Doe.

Glynnis Kirchmeier is accused of defamation in a tweet from February of this year.

“That piece said Galloway had an ‘affair,’ which we now know is what he calls raping,” the statement of claim says of a comment on social media.

Kirchmeier said in an interview she hasn’t been served the statement of claim and she’s not concerned about the allegation.

“I don’t know how much of an economic strait he’s in, but if he thinks that one tweet justifies any sort of damages to him, I just don’t see it.”

Mandi Gray says she also hasn’t been served the document and doesn’t know what she is alleged to have done.

“I tweet a lot, so I’d have to see the actual tweets themselves,” she said, adding she has been outspoken about the way the university handled the case.

“I think it’s really concerning if we aren’t able to talk about these cases, especially when we have people in his corner speaking so loudly about due process.”

Others named in the lawsuit declined comment, while many couldn’t immediately be reached.

Galloway is the author of three novels, including “The Confabulist” and “The Cellist of Sarajevo.” He was nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Burnett said if his client were to sue over every unfair statement that is in the public domain the lawsuit would involve many more people.

“He has focused this lawsuit on the most serious allegations, the allegations that are effectively criminal in nature, people who are calling him a rapist, a sexual assaulter,” he said.

Burnett said several of those named in the lawsuit have been served the statement of claim.

Terri Theodore, The Canadian Press

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