Jian Ghomeshi apologized in court on Wednesday for abusive behaviour while he was host of CBC Radio's Q as part of a deal in which he agreed to submit to a peace bond and the Crown dropped the final remaining charge of sexual assault against him.
Speaking publicly for the first time since a series of women came forward in the fall of 2014 to allege he had sexually assaulted them, the former radio star acknowledged he had acted in a "sexually inappropriate" manner toward a co-worker.
"I recognize that I crossed boundaries inappropriately," he said in a prepared statement read in court before Regional Senior Justice Timothy Lipson of the Ontario Court of Justice.
"The past 18 months have been an education for me. I have reflected deeply and have been working hard to address the attitudes that led me, at the time, to think that this was acceptable."
Mr. Ghomeshi was acquitted in March on four charges of sexual assault and one of overcoming resistance by choking related to three other complainants.
The move brings Mr. Ghomeshi's entanglements with the legal system to a close. It precludes a second trial that was scheduled for June, although his accuser in the case, Kathryn Borel, declared in a scathing statement delivered on the steps of the courthouse that the scandal "won't be over until he admits to everything that he's done."
The unusual resolution promises to stoke the debate – sparked by Mr. Ghomeshi's trial earlier this year, in which advocates of sexual assault victims said the complainants were unfairly maligned – about whether the justice system is equipped to settle such cases.
His apology was one element of an agreement negotiated among Mr. Ghomeshi, the Crown and Ms. Borel, whose identity had been subject to a court-ordered publication ban that was lifted at the beginning of Wednesday's court proceedings. The Crown noted that Mr. Ghomeshi has been in psychotherapy since November, 2014, and said a letter filed with the court "outlines Mr. Ghomeshi's progress toward acquiring insight into the attitudes which sourced his offensive behaviour."
A peace bond, issued under Section 810 of the Criminal Code, is commonly used in cases of domestic assault, in which a complainant has reason to fear the accused. Under the terms of the peace bond, which is in effect for 12 months, Mr. Ghomeshi must not possess any weapons or have any contact with Ms. Borel.
Ms. Borel was a producer on Q in February, 2008, when, as detailed by Crown attorney Michael Callaghan, she and Mr. Ghomeshi were working late one night. As Ms. Borel bent over her desk, "Mr. Ghomeshi approached her from behind. He held her waist and pressed his pelvis back and forth, repeatedly into her buttocks."
Mr. Ghomeshi elided those details during his apology, focusing instead on how he had been in "a position of authority and leadership, and I did not show the respect I should have to Ms. Borel."
Ms. Borel bluntly filled in the details as she issued an indictment of both Mr. Ghomeshi and the toxic CBC workplace culture she alleged had enabled him.
"Every day, over the course of a three-year period, Mr. Ghomeshi made it clear to me that he could do what he wanted to me and my body. He made it clear that he could humiliate me repeatedly and walk away with impunity," she said to dozens of reporters gathered on the steps of Toronto's Old City Hall.
She added that, "when I went to CBC for help, what I received in return was a directive that yes, he could do this, and yes, it was my job to let him. The relentless message to me, from my celebrity boss and the national institution we worked for, were that his whims were more important than my humanity or my dignity."
Spokesperson Chuck Thompson said CBC "sincerely apologized for what occurred," and noted that the court proceedings "for a lot of people at CBC resurfaced difficult feelings." He added that the broadcaster has laboured over the past year to implement the recommendations of a third-party report on CBC's workplace commissioned after the Ghomeshi scandal.
Ms. Borel added that more than a dozen other women "have come forward to say that [Mr. Ghomeshi] punched, and choked, and smothered and silenced them." She noted that Mr. Ghomeshi has not yet "met any of their allegations head on," as he pledged to do in his infamous Facebook post in October, 2014.
Mr. Ghomeshi's lawyer, Marie Henein, told The Globe and Mail there would be no comment on Ms. Borel's statement.
Mr. Callaghan told the court the negotiated resolution served many purposes. "By apologizing for his actions, Mr. Ghomeshi publicly accepts responsibility for them," he said. "Public acknowledgment of the harm done to Ms. Borel is a valuable consequence of this resolution; not only from the perspective of the complainant but, also, from the perspective of the public. This is particularly so, given the unique extent to which this case has attracted public attention. Mr. Ghomeshi's apology promotes this outcome while avoiding the strain and uncertainty of a trial and its impact on the witnesses."
Still, protesters outside the courthouse were dissatisfied. They hung rows of white balloons, each scrawled with messages of support to survivors of sexual assault, on the chain link encircling a cenotaph at the foot of the steps. They expressed anger over a system they say regularly fails survivors of sexual assault, and frustration over the terms of the peace bond.
"I don't necessarily agree with the peace bond, but I understand why [Ms. Borel] would do it," said Linda Redgrave, a complainant in Mr. Ghomeshi's first trial. "For him to do this, gets him off. And it gets her out of the hell we went through."
With a report from Laurent Bastien