A former creative-writing student at the University of British Columbia who was the main complainant (MC) in the Steven Galloway case says it has been “devastating” to read media coverage about the findings of an investigation into a complaint she made against Mr. Galloway. It has been particularly difficult given what she had to go through to get a copy of the report – and the fact she has not seen an unredacted version.
The firing of Mr. Galloway as head of the program has generated a tremendous amount of attention and controversy, including media coverage of the report written by an independent investigator UBC appointed. MC’s copy of the findings is missing key information about her complaint, and she is calling on Mr. Galloway to let UBC give her the information – and for legislative changes.
But Mr. Galloway says that, after enduring nearly three years of the repercussions from the allegations against him, he has no intention of waiving any rights the law provides him – and says at no point did he “stand as an obstacle” to MC’s “exercising the access rights provided her at law, nor did he stand as an obstacle to her receiving and reading the Report,” according to a statement from his lawyer, Brent Olthuis.
Mr. Galloway, a bestselling novelist and well-known figure in Canadian literature, was suspended by UBC in November, 2015. The university announced “serious” allegations against him and suggested counselling for people who felt they needed it – but revealed no hard facts. A swirl of rumours and innuendo followed.
UBC brought in retired B.C. Supreme Court judge Mary Ellen Boyd to conduct an independent investigation. While the report is confidential, parts have leaked through reports in the media, including The Globe and Mail.
The report details allegations against Mr. Galloway from a number of complainants, including MC. It also contains Ms. Boyd’s findings.
According to Mr. Galloway, Ms. Boyd substantiated only one allegation, on a balance of probabilities – and it was not sexual assault, but involved an affair. MC has said her complaint was not about a consensual affair.
The controversy erupted once again this month, when Mr. Galloway was awarded $167,000 after an arbitrator ruled UBC contravened his privacy rights and caused harm to his reputation. Mr. Galloway was then finally able to speak with reporters.
The discussion about whether Mr. Galloway was treated fairly (by UBC, his accusers, the media and people on social media) has often been heated. Mr. Galloway has told reporters he has been suicidal as a result of the events. MC has not commented publicly on her own ordeal.
But MC and her lawyer are questioning the fairness of a system that has forced her to fight for access to the report – and still hasn’t allowed her to see everything related to her complaint. (She is not seeking private information concerning other complainants’ allegations or those findings.)
When The Globe first published some parts of the report in October, 2016, MC – whose identity The Globe is not revealing – had not received the report herself.
She was not automatically entitled to a copy – even a redacted one – but had to make a formal freedom-of-information request to UBC. She submitted it in June, 2016, according to her lawyer, Joanna Birenbaum. In August, 2016, UBC told MC it was prepared to release a redacted version of the report to protect Mr. Galloway’s privacy.
It is routine for UBC to consult a third party whose information is in a report – Mr. Galloway, in this case. The third party may consent to all of the requested information being released. If the third party disagrees with UBC’s decision to disclose information, he or she has the right to request a review by the provincial Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC).
“He exercised that right,” Ms. Birenbaum said. “This resulted in months of delay, in which MC did not have the report in any form, while it was shared with the press. During this time, Mr. Galloway could have consented to the release of the unredacted report to MC.”
In a process where the third party does not agree, the OIPC investigator then reviews the report and provides an opinion on what information must be released, explains UBC general counsel Paul Hancock, speaking in generalities and not the specifics of this case. UBC usually complies with the investigator’s opinion. Mediation can last weeks or months.
MC received her copy of the report in February, 2017. The redacted portions that are particularly concerning for MC relate to the investigator’s findings concerning her complaint of sexual harassment. The concluding summary of Ms. Boyd’s overall findings is also redacted from MC’s copy of the report.
While Mr. Galloway was under no legal obligation to allow an unredacted copy to be released to MC, he could have consented to do so at any time, Ms. Birenbaum said.
“UBC cannot release the information to MC without Galloway’s consent,” she told The Globe. “If Mr. Galloway were to communicate his consent to UBC, UBC could provide MC with the unredacted report as it relates to her.”
In his written response to The Globe, Mr. Olthuis did not directly address why Mr. Galloway did not consent to MC receiving the part of the report in question in unredacted form.
“Mr. Galloway has asked me to reiterate that the Boyd Report is a UBC document and is subject to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. MC exercised her rights under that legislation and made a request to UBC for disclosure of the Report. An OIPC investigator reviewed redactions that UBC proposed and, in early November of 2016, largely accepted them. Mr. Galloway was informed that MC or her legal counsel received a copy of the Report shortly thereafter.”
Privacy laws vary by province. Had this taken place currently in Ontario, MC would have had access to the report’s findings. The Occupational Health and Safety Act states that both the worker who has allegedly experienced workplace harassment and the alleged harasser are informed in writing of the results of the investigation and any corrective action.
“There is a serious systemic problem that needs [to] be corrected,” MC told The Globe in a statement sent through her lawyer. “It has been devastating to read the investigator’s findings in the national press, first without having a copy myself at all, and now with key sections blacked out. If privacy law permits a responding party to so publicly share an investigator’s report of sexual harassment and assault, when the complainant herself is barred from access, the law needs to be changed.”
As for Mr. Galloway, he is trying to move on with his life and will not be complying with MC’s request, according to the statement from his lawyer.
“It is approaching three years since MC made her allegations of sexual assault against Mr. Galloway. Mr. Galloway has always categorically denied those allegations, and the Boyd Report dismissed them on a balance of probabilities, which is the civil, not criminal, standard,” Mr. Olthuis wrote. “Having gone through the process of the investigation and Boyd Report, and having now endured years of damaging repercussions for allegations he rejects as untrue and that have been proven untrue, only to become the subject of further accusations from MC about process, Mr. Galloway has no intention of waiving any rights that the law provides him.”