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Articles Posted in Sexual Assault

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The front page story of today’s Globe & Mail (print) newspaper read “Woman at centre of scandal breaks silence“; referring to the complainant who stepped forward in the sexual assault lawsuit against Hockey Canada and some players.

More interesting were the comments from the personal injury lawyer who says “in watching the coverage of his client’s complaint it has been frustrating to see misinformation circulate that she did not cooperate with police.

It’s really hard to read about stories in the print media, when they don’t have access to all of the information and yet they report on it as if they do. It’s not in the best interest of any lawyer to litigate a case through the media. In fact, if sensitive information about a case gets out into the public before the case has resolved, it will likely jeopardize and tarnish the outcome of the case entirely.

Assaults, and sexual assault cases often get reported in the media. We hear it all the time, and tend to cast judgment based on the reporting itself, or based on our own predisposed beliefs.

Unfortunately, the reporters and their news outlets often get things wrong.  Or perhaps its the Twitter Trolls or amateur internet commentators in the comment sections who just don’t get it.

It happened to our office and to one of our client’s. In a highly publicized case out of Peterborough, our client was assaulted at Riley’s Pub downtown. The bouncers were so aggressive that they broke our client’s leg/ankle. Our client sought medical assistance from the police.

Instead, the three officers referred to the man as a “pussy,” a “douche,” a “drunk idiot,” told him to “walk it off” and told him to take a cab to the hospital where he was eventually treated for the serious leg injury, investigators found. An independent police review has found “evidence of misconduct” involving two Peterborough-Lakefield police officers and a department sergeant.

The complaint against the officers eventually settled outside of the formal Tribunal.

When this story first broke, members of the community thought it to be a sham, or a charade to catch attention. It couldn’t possibly be true. But it was.

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News of sexual assaults involving Hockey Canada have shocked and appalled Canadians. Hockey is religion in Canada; so when the news broke; it broke hard and fast.

In May 2022, Hockey Canada settled a $3.55-million lawsuit filed in April by a woman who alleges she was sexually assaulted by eight former Canadian Hockey League players following a Hockey Canada Foundation event in London, ON in June 2018. The allegations were never tested or tried in Court. The London Police Service did not press any charges in relation to these allegations; but they will be re-opening their investigation.

Another alleged sexual assault took place in 2003 at the World Juniors tournament in Halifax. Hockey Canada “heard a rumour about ‘something bad’ at the 2003 World Juniors. In order to learn more, Hockey Canada hired a third-party investigator to try to find more information.” The allegations have not been tried or tested in Court and remain allegations. But Halifax Police is opening an investigation in to this case as well. Players have come forward and denied any knowledge of the allegations.

Here is why these cases are so interesting to personal injury lawyers, and to the public at large:

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Last week, the Supreme Court of Canada released a decision which upheld key protections for sexual assault victims. The decision is R. v. J. J.

In the wake of the Me Too Revolution, Canadian parliament changed the Criminal Code to establish more protections for sexual assault victims.

Let’s say an accused has text messages, or emails, or some other form of communication directly from the complainant. Those messages may impact the dignity of the complainant. Instead of simply being used at trial in their defence, an accused must disclose these records and a pretrial must be held in order to determine what records, can, or cannot be used at trial. It’s entirely in the Judge’s hands. If the Judge determines that the records are not relevant and will hurt the complainant’s dignity, they cannot be used.

The second major change was to give the complainants the right to argue at a hearing (outside of the course of the trial) that their privacy outweighs the importance of the records. Again, it’s up to a Judge to make the final determination of the privacy rights of the complainant outweigh the rights to a defendant using all evidence at his/her disposal in order to defend the charges.

This is a very difficult balancing act. The rights, dignity and privacy of the complainant are important. A complainant should not be humiliated on the stand or hurt twice as a result of stepping forward and testifying at trial. Complainants should not be intimidated to step forward and have their voices heard. I think we can all agree with that.

At the same time, a Defendant has the right to a fair defence. If an accused cannot use all of the evidentiary tools at his/her disposal in order to combat the charges, then are we giving that Defendant a fair and meaningful opportunity to a defense a trial. Or are we just giving them a perceived fair shake while limiting the tools at their disposal?

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There is a black eye on Canada’s Military; and it’s not due to lack of funding or purchase orders of military helicopters or planes gone bad.

In a Government Census, approximately 25% of women serving in the Canadian Military reported being sexually assaulted during their military careers.

Pause and think about that stat long and hard.

Nearly 1 out of every 4 women serving in Canada’s military has been sexually assaulted in their military career.

That statistic is mind blowing! Any other industry would be completely shut down if that’s how women are treated in the workplace. You would have police, government officials and activist groups swarming the employer to the point they would not be able to function. It would be a business and PR nightmare. In the age of cancel culture; this employer would be ruined beyond the point of no return.

But what happens when that delinquent workplace is a public institution; like the Canadian Military?

We can’t stop shopping or boycott the Canadian military.

I suppose that people can withdraw for service, or simply not enlist to serve in the Canadian Military because the work environment appears to be less than optimal; particularly for women. There are other noble ways to serve and to protect one’s country. But the Canadian Military needs people so so many things. The Canadian armed forces does not run on robots or cheap migrant labour. How does the Canadian Military attract Canadians to enlist and serve the country with such bad PR? More importantly, how does the Canadian Military attract women to fill the ranks?

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Recently I watched the Netflix Docuseries Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich. It was a disturbing watch which made me feel a lot of emotions. Anger, shock, sadness, grief, rage, and some more anger to name a few emotions.

It was an interesting watch which I highly recommend it. I certainly understand if it’s not up someone’s alley because it deals with very sensitive and disturbing matters. But these are the sort of things which personal injury lawyers who deal with sexual assault, sexual abuse and trafficking claims see regularly.

If you aren’t familiar with the Jeffrey Epstein cases, his history, his wealth, power and influence, I recommend that you do your own research; or watch the docuseries.

A few notes from the series which are important for people to understand and victims of sexual abuse with potential claims to understand.

  1. It’s really hard for victims of sexual assault, sexual abuse and human trafficking to confront their accuser and report what they’ve been through to the authorities. It takes a lot of strength, courage and confidence to do so. And just because a victim does step forward, does not necessary mean that s/he will be believed, or that the authorities will take the complaint seriously. In the Docuseries, we saw a first two survivor sisters who reported Mr. Epstein to the FBI early on after a series of alleged sexual assaults on his New Mexico ranch. It would appear that the FBI did not do very much with these accusations until years later when more victims stepped forward. In that period of time, Mr. Epstein was left unchecked. Had the authorities properly investigated the allegations, his behaviours may have been curtailed much earlier on.
  2. There is power in numbers. Many victims of Mr. Epstein stepped forward to share their stories with authorities after word got out that he was being investigated. This helped the authorities build their case against Mr. Epstein, and gave the survivors confidence that they were not alone in this. It appeared that they did not have as much confidence to step forward beforehand given Mr. Epstein’s wealth, power and influence.

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Our law firm is approached by countless prospective clients regarding sexual assault claims.

The courage and strength the survivors have to step forward and speak with a personal injury lawyer about what they’ve been through is truly remarkable. I can’t begin to tell you about how difficult it can be for people to speak up and speak out about what they’ve been through. Even if all conversations with our lawyers and confidential, it still takes a lot for anyone to dig deep and recount to the events which have haunted their lives. Our hats off to all of the people who have opened up to us in the past; and continue to do so to this day. We appreciate the confidence and trust which you have put in out law firm to handle such meaningful and emotional claims.

We have been proud throughout the years to represent survivors of sexual assault in their claims against institutional defendants such as schools, hospitals and religious institutions. We have also been proud representing sexual assault survivors against various professionals such as doctors, dentists, teachers and religious figures.

Unfortunately, the law has a way of dehumanizing claims. The people who step forward to advance their claims are simply referred to as “The Plaintiff“; and the abuser is simply referred to as “The Defendant“. The law then takes the next step of examining one’s pain and suffering not but what a person may say on the stand; but by what’s contained in their medical, treatment or counselling records. If it’s not contained in the records, then it may not ring true in a Court of law.

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The first rule in personal injury law is to make sure that you sue a Defendant with deep pockets. That means the Plaintiff and his/her personal injury lawyer need to be satisfied that the Defendant has the ability to pay out on a potential settlement or judgment. If the Defendant cannot pay, the Plaintiff will not be compensated despite winning the case.

You can’t get blood from a stone. Nor can a personal injury lawyer recover compensation from an impecunious Defendant.

This is a very important concept.

There is certainly vindication on behalf of an injured Plaintiff in securing a judgment against a Defendant who has wronged him/her. The feeling of winning, justice, or simply closure are very important feelings.

But these feelings cost money.

If the Plaintiff has deep pockets, and doesn’t mind spending thousands of dollars in legal fees without a prospect of recovery in order to secure a Judgment; then all the power to that Plaintiff.

But these wealthy Plaintiffs who are prepared to spend the type of money required to secure a judgment in a personal injury action are few and far between.

Most Plaintiffs don’t have deep pockets to pay a lawyer’s hourly rates. On top of that; most lawyers won’t take on cases on a contingency fee basis on a “winnable” case if there is no realistic prospect of recovery.

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