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Canada Dalhousie dentistry student blew the whistle on Facebook group: lawyer

A few hundred protesters gathered in front of the offices of the President of Dalhousie University, in Halifax, Nova Scotia on January 5, 2014.

Scott Munn/The Globe and Mail

A poll asking male students which female classmate they wanted to have "hate" sex with was too much to bear for Ryan Millet, a fourth-year Dalhousie University dentistry student and member of the misogynistic Facebook group Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen, according to his lawyer.

He blew the whistle on the 12 other members. "To see something so targeted and violent and hateful against someone that you care about is something else," Mr. Millet said in an interview with the Halifax Chronicle Herald. "That's not me. That's not what I'm about. And the people who know me would agree."

Facing a disciplinary hearing on Tuesday, Mr. Millet, 29, is the first, and only, member of the Facebook group to come forward and make his story public.

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Early last month, the father of three, who is originally from the American Midwest, quit the group, informed a female colleague that she was the target of offensive and sexist comments, and allowed her into his account so that she could gather the evidence for a complaint, his lawyer, Bruce MacIntosh explained in a statement provided to The Globe and Mail.

Mr. Millet told the Chronicle Herald he was added to the group and did not deliberately join it. It has been operating since their first year – and some posts were offensive, including one he reported to Facebook and it came down, he said.

"Really, the posts weren't super extreme," he said. "Obviously there were some foolish, boyish posts but the extreme inappropriateness and disturbing nature of the specific hate post that eventually came out – there was nothing of that insane level that caught my eye until it happened."

It was posted on Dec. 6, 2014 – which, ironically, was the 25th anniversary of the shooting deaths of 14 women at Montreal's École Polytechnique.

"When it did happen there were a few of us in the group that were immediately 'whoa,' shock factor, very upset, disturbed by the post," he said. "We honestly felt like the guys who posted it would come to their senses within minutes and realize this is was way too far."

Like the other members of the Facebook group, the university has suspended Mr. Millet from clinical activities and he cannot graduate until his suspension is lifted.

He talked about how close the class is – and so the hateful posts were made that much more upsetting to him. In the interview with The Chronicle Herald, he said he stayed in the Facebook group because he felt that even if he disagreed with some of the things being said he wasn't going to completely ignore them.

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"Ryan, alone amongst the Facebook group, took a vocal stand against those offensive posts," writes Mr. MacIntosh. "He alone forced the removal of earlier Facebook entries that were similarly disrespectful."

"Mr. Millet asked that his hearing be conducted in public, but his request was denied, said his lawyer. The "primary female target of the hateful Facebook poll," who Mr. MacIntosh identifies in his statement as "anonymous Student AB," is to appear before the discipline committee to say she "supports his legal efforts to have his suspension expunged from his student records," the lawyer said.

The university did not respond to repeated requests for comment. After the Facebook group came to light, it sparked protests by both staff and students of the university demanding the men's expulsion and ignited a discussion about rape culture across the country. The university has shielded their names and those of the female students as it has established a restorative justice process to deal with the matter. However, Alberta, B.C., Ontario and Nova Scotia dental regulatory bodies have said they will ensure that any of the male students from the Dalhousie 2015 class who apply for licences to practise will be scrutinized for "good character."

Mr. Millet's lawyer said he feels it is important that his story and identity be made public because it's about more than having his suspension lifted.

"I have advised my client that there is little value in winning the easy battle on suspension, if he loses the subsequent war on dental licensing and the trust of his patients," Mr. MacIntosh writes.

There are 19 women and 19 men in the core group of the fourth-year dentistry class. Shortly after the scandal broke, Mr. Millet wrote a letter of apology to his female classmates, which leaked to the local press.

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"While I did not play a direct involvement in the hurtful comments brought forth, I apologize for being a bystander," wrote Mr. Millet. "No father can stand idly by with this happening and consider himself a man. I knew it was time to step forward. My children deserve to know their father did the right thing.

"To the direct victims: I am eternally sorry for the damage caused by what has occurred. You deserve far more respect as daughters of God, and for the hard work you have devoted to getting to this point in your career," his letter said.

There has been much criticism about the restorative justice process. Some critics and students have argued that it was hurried to control any more damage to the school and a proper investigation of exactly who was involved was never conducted.

Last week, four of the female students released an open letter saying they will not participate in the restorative justice process, expressing concern that the university was pressuring them into it and "silencing our views, isolating us from our peers, and discouraging us from choosing to proceed formally."

Mr. MacIntosh is also critical of the process. In his statement, he writes, "… both perpetrators and victims alike were prematurely enticed into a restorative justice system which started with acceptance of guilt.

"To be clear, my client agrees restorative justice is an invaluable legal and social tool for those guilty of unprofessional conduct. However, that tool should only be used after there has been a due diligence finding of guilty conduct, not assumption of guilt by association with others."

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He added that Mr. Millet, as well as the 12 other students, has "been publicly pilloried and secretly convicted, without due process or the right to be heard. At least three separate times in the last month, a Dental School [sic] internal process has met behind closed doors and found him guilty of 'blatant unprofessionalism,' without once demanding a due diligence investigation or offering the opportunity to be heard."

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