The main complainant in the Steven Galloway case can no longer be publicly identified, under a ruling issued Wednesday by a B.C. Supreme Court judge. A publication ban, now in effect, covers the woman’s name and identifying information. It also prevents linking to and publishing information from previous articles that did use her name.
The woman’s lawyers had argued in court last month that releasing her name would cause her harm and lead to a chilling effect on disclosures of sexual assault in future.
The former creative writing student at the University of British Columbia alleged in 2015 that Mr. Galloway had sexually assaulted and harassed her. Head of the program when the allegations were made, Mr. Galloway was suspended. An investigation by a retired B.C. Supreme Court judge found on a balance of probabilities that Mr. Galloway had not committed sexual assault, but, according to information revealed in the publication-ban application, that he did make inappropriate and unwanted sexual advances toward her while her professor.
Mr. Galloway was fired in June, 2016. Following an arbitration case, he was awarded more than $240,000 from UBC in 2018 for damage to his reputation and violation of his privacy. Mr. Galloway then launched a defamation suit against more than 20 people, including the woman who had been known as M.C.
He named the woman in the lawsuit; and some media outlets, including the National Post and CBC, named her in their coverage.
“There is direct evidence of the harm to the applicant’s health because of the initial publication of her name when the notice of civil claim was filed and her name reported,” the judgment states.
Justice Francesca Marzari writes that the case is likely to continue to be the subject of intense media and social-media interest. “Based on the coverage to date, some of that social-media attention will continue to be not only disparaging of the applicant, but also degrading and potentially threatening.”
The judge says the woman “reasonably fears for her physical safety” based on personal attacks she has already experienced.
As a term of the order, Justice Marzari issued “the express proviso that the publication of links to or descriptions of previously published print or internet publications containing information that identified the applicant are prohibited.”
The judgment also approves a partial sealing order. The publicly available court file will be redacted to remove information that could identify the woman, who will be referred to as “A.B.” in court documents.
Mr. Galloway’s lawyer, Daniel Burnett, had argued that his client’s ability to seek justice would be hampered by protecting the woman’s identity.
The judge ruled, “The plaintiff’s interest in vindication through his defamation lawsuit is properly accomplished through trial. ... Nothing in the orders sought will affect his ability to seek vindication through the court process.”
A key factor in the case is an art exhibit M.C. mounted that used her name and identified her as a rape victim, but did not mention Mr. Galloway or UBC. Mr. Burnett argued that she essentially outed herself by doing so.
“Resolution of this issue will likely be an important one at trial,” the judge wrote in her decision.
“I’m very pleased the court recognized that public exposure of a defendant in a defamation claim, sued for coming forward with a sexual assault complaint, can do so anonymously. Otherwise this could act to deter complainants from coming forward,” the woman’s lawyer, David Wotherspoon, told The Globe and Mail. Mr. Burnett was not available for comment.
“At this preliminary stage of this litigation, it has not been established that the applicant is a victim of sexual assault or that the plaintiff has been wrongly accused,” Justice Marzari writes in her judgment. “Nor am I able to resolve any part of that issue in making a determination on the application before me: that will be for the trial judge.”
A trial is tentatively scheduled for June, 2020.