Former UBC Creative Writing Chair Steven Galloway is suing two of his former colleagues and a host of former students for defamatory statements.
The lawsuit follows years of widespread allegations about Galloway’s extramarital affair with a graduate student who claimed he sexually assaulted her.
That student, who until now was known only as the main complainant or “MC” due to a previous publication ban aimed at protecting her identity, is named in the lawsuit. Galloway’s legal counsel indicated in an email to The Ubyssey that filing the suit required including MC’s name and her relationship to Galloway.
While MC’s name was already published in The National Post, The Ubyssey is waiting for confirmation from MC’s legal counsel. At the time of publication, MC’s lawyer Joanna Birenbaum said in an email to The Ubyssey that “No client of mine has been served with a Statement of Claim, nor has my office.”
Other defendants include UBC creative writing professors Keith Maillard and Annabel Lyon; former Discorder Magazine Editor-in-Chief Brit Bachmann, who is included for statements she made on Twitter; and Glynnis Kirchmeier, a former UBC student who launched a human rights complaint against the school over the handling of a different sexual assault case.
Galloway’s claim was filed in the Supreme Court of BC on October 26. None of the present allegations have been proven and defendants had not been served notice at the time of publishing.
The lawsuit seeks damages for what it calls defamatory comments made online and in person about Galloway over the course of a years-long debate about his innocence and the handling of accusations against him by the Canadian literature community.
Among instances listed is the allegation that MC encouraged Maillard and Lyon to repeat defamatory statements on her behalf, and that the two professors told colleagues in the creative writing department that the assault had occurred.
Maillard had not yet received notice when contacted for this article and was unable to comment. Lyon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The notice also lists numerous examples of former students alleging that Galloway had sexually assaulted MC on Twitter. One of the appellants is named only by their Twitter username @Suzie_BedBug.
One of the defendants, Glynnis Kirchmeier, is being sued over a tweet she published in February 2018 that stated that Galloway had committed rape.
Kirchmeier had not received notice at the time of publication but expressed doubts about the validity of some of the charges. She noted that she lives in the United States and was not in Canada when she tweeted, which would put her outside the BC Supreme Court's jurisdiction.
“It could be that I answer [the notice] only to say that this is not the proper venue,” said Kirchmeier.
The suit seeks an injunction “requiring the defendants to remove the defamatory words from the internet and every other public posting.”
Earlier this summer, Discorder was contacted by Galloway’s legal counsel after it published a letter from former creative writing student Keagan Perlette that they considered defamatory. Discorder deleted the piece, and a retraction letter was issued in its place.
Kirchmeier said she believes this is a means of discouraging discussion around Galloway and indicated she does not intend to change her message or behaviour.
“I’m not interested in being quiet about this,” said Kirchmeier. “I do think that a natural effect of litigation like this is for people to shut up or feel like they are not going to speak, and I think that people should never be afraid of speaking the truth and especially truth for which evidence exists or an honest belief exists.”
Three years later
UBC suspended Galloway in November 2015 after “serious allegations” surfaced and formally terminated him for “a record of misconduct that resulted in an irreparable breach of the trust” in June 2016.
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A special investigation by the Honourable Mary Ellen Boyd in June 2016 found that he had “made increasingly inappropriate sexual comments and advances towards [MC] over a number of months in late 2010 and early 2011,” and that “[MC's] failure to expressly object to [Galloway’s] behaviour was the byproduct of the power differential between the two parties.”
However, she concluded that the extramarital affair was consensual and said she could not substantiate allegation of sexual assault on a balance of probabilities.
This summer, an arbitration decision awarded Galloway $167,000 in damages on the grounds that UBC’s communications caused damage to his reputation and breached his privacy. UBC paid Galloway an additional $60,000 after it was determined the school violated the confidentiality agreement of the initial arbitration.
“As a consequence of the defamations set forth herein, the plaintiff continues to suffer grave damage to his reputation, upset and emotional damage, as well as special damages including the destruction of his career, all to be particularized at trial,” reads the notice.
UBC, which was not named in the suit, said that it is reviewing the case with its legal counsel.