Steven Galloway’s lawsuit can proceed to trial, BC Supreme Court says

This article contains mention of sexual assault.

The BC Supreme Court released a judgement yesterday that allows the former UBC prof to go ahead with his defamation lawsuit.

In 2018, Galloway sued more than 20 people he claims made defamatory statements about him following a high-profile allegation that he sexually assaulted a student.

Twelve of the defendants filed anti-Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) applications in response. However, BC Supreme Court Justice Elaine Adair didn’t buy the applicants' argument that “protecting expressions” that encourage reporting of sexual assault should outweigh the public interest in allowing Galloway's lawsuit to go forward. Adair dismissed the majority of the applications.

Galloway argued these statements have “crippled ... his writing and [made him] unpublishable.” He said the statements made by the defendants “were understood to mean that he had raped, sexually assaulted and physically assaulted the defendant A.B.” A.B.’s identity is covered by a publication ban.

UBC creative writing professor Annabel Lyon and Mohawk author Alicia Elliott’s anti-SLAPP applications were granted by the court, meaning Galloway’s case against them has been dismissed.

Former UBC student A.B. — the main complainant against Galloway — along with creative writing professor Keith Maillard, Chelsea Rooney and Mandi Gray all saw portions of their applications granted, but other parts dismissed. The remainder of Galloway’s claims against all four will still be heard in court.

The remaining six defendants’ — Glynnis Kirchmeier, Brit Bachmann, Theresa Smalec, Dr. Kiera Anderson, Arielle Rombough and Dr. Marcelle Kosman — anti-SLAPP applications were dismissed, meaning Galloway’s lawsuits against them will go forward.

The Protection of Public Participation Act (PPPA), which allows for these types of applications, passed the BC legislature with unanimous consent in 2019.

Some of the applications were granted on the basis of the Limitation Act, including A.B., Maillard and Rooney’s first claims, as well as both of Lyon’s claims. The act gives people two years to commence a court proceeding after the discovery of the claim. Adair rejected the assertion that Galloway did not know of these claims by October 2016.

The judge dismissed A.B.’s application on her second claim surrounding her involvement in an art show, in which she stated that a professor and famous author raped and sexually assaulted her. The judge called A.B.’s efforts to avoid naming Galloway “irrelevant,” as the statements in context “would lead reasonable people acquainted with Mr. Galloway to the conclusion that the statements referred to him.”

Adair noted at the end of the 242-page judgement that while some of the claims should be allowed to go to trial on their “merits,” “the outcome of the PPPA Applications is not a final adjudication of the merits of the claims or defences.”

“Rather, I have concluded merely that, based on the record and the legal principles that apply … Mr. Galloway deserves to have his day in court to potentially vindicate his reputation,” she wrote.

A six-year saga

A.B., a former student of Galloway’s, alleged that he sexually assaulted her in 2015. A.B. said their two-year extramarital affair was abusive, while Galloway maintains it was consensual. Galloway was formerly the department head of creative writing at UBC, until he was removed in 2015 due to “serious allegations,” and was later terminated by UBC in June 2016 for misconduct.

In June 2016, former Supreme Court Justice Mary Ellen Boyd concluded the affair between A.B. and Galloway was consensual and could not substantiate the allegation of sexual assault on the “balance of probabilities.” She did find that Galloway had made “inappropriate sexual comments and advances” toward A.B. and that “[A.B’s] failure to expressly object to [Galloway’s] behaviour was the byproduct of the power differential between the two parties.”

UBC was forced to pay Galloway $167,000 in damages and an additional $60,000 in summer 2018 after an arbitration process determined that UBC had damaged his reputation and breached his privacy.