The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled against the main complainant in an ongoing dispute involving Steven Galloway, a bestselling novelist and former head of the creative writing program at the University of British Columbia.
Mr. Galloway is suing the woman, a former student who has accused him of sexual assault and harassment, for defamation.
On Thursday, the country’s highest court rejected the woman’s application to appeal a lower court’s ruling that she must turn over documents Mr. Galloway’s lawyers have requested and which have been deemed relevant to the case.
It is a key legal win for Mr. Galloway, whose lawyers have been seeking the documents for more than a year.
David Wotherspoon, one of the lawyers for the woman, known in court documents as A.B., called the ruling disappointing.
The application for leave to appeal was dismissed without costs. No reason was given for the judgment. There is no further legal recourse in the matter.
Mr. Galloway is suing the woman, whose identity is sealed under court order, and more than 20 other people, including UBC faculty and other Canadian authors.
Thursday’s judgment means she will be compelled to produce documents such as e-mail correspondence with some of the other people named in Mr. Galloway’s lawsuit.
The allegations against Mr. Galloway, initially blanketed in secrecy, received a great deal of attention and led to his dismissal from the university and the devastation of his personal life, according to his lawsuit.
A.B. is trying to have the lawsuit thrown out under anti-SLAPP legislation, which seeks to protect freedom of expression on matters of public interest and ensure that powerful people or organizations cannot silence critics.
When A.B. testified in a B.C. court in 2019 that she could not remember certain things, she was asked by Mr. Galloway’s lawyers to produce documents they said could have cleared up those matters. When she refused, she was ordered by a judge to produce the documents. That judgment was upheld by the B.C. Court of Appeal in April. She then appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.
“While it is unusual for the [Supreme Court of Canada] to grant leave in such cases, given the importance of the issues for survivors of sexual violence, we felt it was important to seek leave,” Mr. Wotherspoon noted in an e-mail to The Globe and Mail.
“An appeal would have been an opportunity for the [Supreme Court] to ensure that the anti-SLAPP protections are in fact real for survivors faced with actually litigating these applications. That issue is now left for another day and another case.”
The case dates back to November, 2015, when UBC announced that Mr. Galloway had been suspended because of “serious allegations.” An independent investigation conducted by retired B.C. Supreme Court Justice Mary Ellen Boyd concluded on a balance of probabilities that Mr. Galloway had not committed sexual assault, but found that he had had an inappropriate affair with A.B.
In June, 2016, Mr. Galloway was fired by UBC for an “irreparable breach of … trust.”
The university was later ordered to pay him more than $240,000 in damages after it was found UBC had damaged his reputation and violated his privacy rights.
Mr. Galloway filed his lawsuit in October, 2018, arguing that he was defamed by false accusations of rape, sexual assault and physical assault and that the defamatory statements were recklessly repeated both within the university and online, including on social media.
A GoFundMe campaign has raised more than $87,000 to help pay legal costs for the people named in the suit.
The trial for Mr. Galloway’s defamation suit had originally been scheduled to begin in June, but it cannot happen until the SLAPP matter is resolved. Mr. Wotherspoon said he hopes that can move forward quickly.
Lawyers for Mr. Galloway declined to comment for this story.
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