Tuesday, July 15, 2014
PublishedSunday, Jul. 13 2014, 6:00 PM EDT
Allegations that some members of the University of Ottawa’s men’s hockey team committed sexual assault in Thunder Bay earlier this year are deeply disturbing. If they prove to be true, the young men involved are guilty of a serious criminal offence, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. But the university’s recent decision to suspend the entire hockey program for a full season is hasty and unjust to those players whose only fault is one of circumstance: They happen to play on the same team as the three alleged offenders. Twenty-one players are innocent of any crime – even an alleged one – yet they are being treated as though they are guilty by association. It’s a kind of collective punishment.
It’s a surprising verdict, coming from Allan Rock, the University of Ottawa’s president, who once served as justice minister. He justified the sweeping sanctions after an internal review – details kept confidential – showed some team members’ behaviour during the tournament in Thunder Bay “did not meet the university’s expectations of our student athletes” and “was not in keeping with the university’s values.” If that sounds vague, it is no more so than statements from the Thunder Bay Police concerning the alleged Feb. 1 incident. Their investigation is complete but they have not yet decided whether any charges will be laid. Perhaps the university’s investigators uncovered something the police missed, but unless Mr. Rock makes their findings public, it’s impossible to understand why he chose such a harsh course of action. Would it have made more sense to wait for the police to lay charges, and for those charges to be proven (or not) in court? It’s called due process, and one would think that Mr. Rock would get that.
The university’s suspension of the hockey program doesn’t just mean a couple of dozen players don’t get to play their sport. A group of people who had nothing to do with the alleged incident – some of whom weren’t even in Thunder Bay – have had their reputations tarnished, job offers revoked, and have been ostracized by peers. Mr. Rock should have waited; if any players are ultimately found guilty, the university can punish them (after the justice system does). But based on the evidence that’s publicly known, at least 21 other players have done nothing wrong. They deserve something else from Mr. Rock: the presumption of innocence.
Thursday, July 10, 2014
The defendant Denis Rancourt will appeal the judgement resulting from the May-June 2014 trial of the St. Lewis v. Rancourt defamation case.
The Notice of Appeal has been served to the plaintiff and filed to the Court of Appeal for Ontario, and is posted HERE, and as a PDF file HERE.
The Overview section in the Notice of Appeal reads:
1. This appeal raises fundamental questions about:
(a) the sufficient conditions that give rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias, regarding financial and institutional ties, in-court procedural decisions, the charge to the jury, and express findings from the bench;
(b) the right of a litigant to argue an abuse-of-process remedy in a defamation trial, which was pleaded in pleadings that were not stuck out;
(c) the right of a defendant to have his pleaded defences and remedies considered by the jury in a defamation trial;
(d) whether the charge to the jury in a defamation trial can limit the jury members to either accept or reject specified meanings of the words complained of;
(e) whether an imbedded video that is an integral part of a web article (“blogpost”) complained of and that is essential to the context of the alleged libel in a defamation action must be shown to the jury at trial;
(f) the limiting of a defendant’s freedom of expression by a permanent injunction that forbids future unknown statements about the plaintiff, following a successful defamation action;
(g) costs policy principles, the Charter principle of freedom of expression, and the common law of awarding costs, for costs of a defamation trial against an impecunious defendant when there are no costs to the plaintiff.
All/most court-filed documents of both parties in the overall action and its appeals are HERE.
On June 25, 2014, guest blogger Joanne St. Lewis posted this blogpost on the SLAW legal magazine blog:
Professor Joanne St. Lewis: Why I Stood Up to Racist Cyber Libel (LINK)