Arguing that he has been the victim of malice, spite and vicious lies, author Steven Galloway has launched legal action against 25 people, including the former student who alleged he sexually assaulted her. Her allegations led to his dismissal as chair of the creative-writing program at the University of British Columbia in 2016.
“The plaintiff was defamed by false accusations of rape, sexual assault and physical assault,” the notice of civil claim reads. It says the statements made by the main complainant in the case – known publicly as MC – were defamatory, and “recklessly repeated” by others.
“The defamatory statements were devastating to the plaintiff both personally and in his professional career,” the filing reads.
In November, 2015, MC made allegations of sexual assault and harassment against Mr. Galloway, leading to his suspension and an investigation by retired B.C. Supreme Court judge Mary Ellen Boyd.
In her report, she found on a balance of probabilities that Mr. Galloway had not committed sexual assault. Mr. Galloway’s filing says that has not stopped some people from referring to him as a rapist.
The lawsuit also identifies the main complainant. The woman brought her complaint to the university on the understanding that her identity would be protected. Because she has never spoken publicly, The Globe and Mail is not naming her.
“[MC] is older than the plaintiff and had herself been a professor before she met the plaintiff. She and the plaintiff had a consensual romantic affair that lasted over two years. Both of them were married and the affair was adulterous,” the filing says. It accuses MC of “actively” encouraging other people named in the suit to defame him.
Also named in the suit are Mr. Galloway’s former UBC colleagues Keith Maillard and Annabel Lyon; former UBC creative-writing student Chelsea Rooney, who was an ancillary complainant in the case; the writer Alicia Elliott; and other people who have written about Mr. Galloway – many of them on Twitter.
A professor who reviewed a New York art show by MC is also named in the suit.
The allegations have not been proven and the defendants have not filed statements of defence.
Mr. Galloway’s notice of action, filed on Friday, seeks unspecified damages, interest, costs and a permanent injunction requiring the removal of “the defamatory words from the Internet” and restraint from publishing them in the future.
“The defamatory words … were published with express malice arising from the extreme and vicious content of the publications, knowing falsehood of them, reckless willingness to publish accusations without knowledge of their truth or falsehood, [and] attitudes of spite towards the plaintiff,” the legal filing states.
It alleges that as a result of defamation, Mr. Galloway “has and continues to suffer grave damage to his reputation, upset and emotional damage, as well as special damages including the destruction of his career.”
“I read about the notice of action in the news,” MC’s lawyer, Joanna Birenbaum, told The Globe on Monday. She received what she calls a courtesy copy on Monday afternoon. “Neither the plaintiff nor his legal counsel appears to have contacted the named individuals before taking the story to the press.”
In another development, UBC told Ms. Birenbaum on Friday it will respond by Dec. 6 to her demand for an unredacted copy of the Boyd report.
While Mr. Galloway has a full copy, key portions of the copy MC received were blacked out, in particular the conclusions related to sexual harassment.
“MC is entitled to know whether Mr. Galloway was found to have sexually harassed her,” Ms. Birenbaum wrote in an open letter to UBC president Santa Ono two months ago.
In her letter, Ms. Birenbaum quoted from the parts of the report MC has received.
“I accept MC’s allegations that [Mr. Galloway] made increasingly inappropriate sexual comments and advances towards her over a number of months in late 2010 and early 2011,” Ms. Boyd wrote.
MC’s copy indicates Ms. Boyd found that MC was “in a situation where the ‘stakes were high.’ … Given [Mr. Galloway’s] position as professor, undergraduate advisor, and international professional fiction writer versus MC’s position as an undergraduate student and aspiring fledgling writer, there was a clear power differential between the parties.”
Asked last week if Ms. Boyd found he had committed sexual harassment, Mr. Galloway initially told The Globe, “I cannot answer that because I can’t speak about any grounds that may have been used by UBC to advance my termination.”
In a later e-mail he said he did not want to violate the orders of an arbitrator who has found that UBC violated Mr. Galloway’s privacy.
With a report from Gary Mason