Signage near the main entrance at Yukon College in Whitehorse on Sept. 7. A long-time Yukon College instructor was fired over the summer after a student accused him of sexual assault and now he’s suing her, alleging that a Facebook post following his dismissal has harmed him and his reputation. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Fired Yukon College instructor sues student over sex assault allegations

Charles Stuart is suing a former student over a Facebook post alleging he sexually assaulted her

A long-time Yukon College instructor was fired over the summer after a student accused him of sexual assault, according to court documents – and now, he’s suing her, alleging that a Facebook post following his dismissal have harmed him and his reputation.

In a statement of claim filed to the Yukon Supreme Court Oct. 12, Charles Stuart, the former coordinator of the college’s northern justice and criminology program, says he had consensual sex with the student and that her conduct since their encounter has been “harsh, vindictive, callous and reprehensible.”

The News is withholding the name of the student.

The student declined to comment for this story through her lawyer, Rose A. Keith. In an email, Keith wrote that her client intends to file a statement of defence as well as a counterclaim against Stuart.

At the core of the dispute is a weekend in October 2017, during which Stuart, who was first hired on at the college’s Whitehorse campus on Sept. 12, 1994, alleges that he and the student had “consensual sexual relations” and “consensual sexual touching.”

However, on Jan. 31, the statement of claim says, Stuart received a letter from college human resources advisor Jane Wightman informing him that the student had filed a complaint against him alleging sexual harassment. He received another letter April 18 from a legal consultant containing “particulars” of the complaint, which alleged, among other things, “non-consensual sexual intercourse.”

On June 19, the statement of claim continues, Stuart received a letter from Yukon College president Karen Barnes which stated that his employment with the college was “terminated for just cause, effective immediately” because of the complaint. He also received another letter informing that he was barred from all Yukon College campuses for life.

On June 20, the statement of claim says, the student “falsely and maliciously wrote and published” a post on Facebook.

“My dearest friends and family, I cannot express just how incredibly relieved I feel,” the lawsuit quotes the student’s Facebook post as saying. “I stood up against sexualized assault 7 months ago. It was one of the scariest experiences I have gone through. Today I received a phone call letting me know that the man who assaulted me will no longer be allowed to teach in the Yukon. I am beyond thankful to everyone who has helped me through this time. I am beyond thankful to women who have shared their stories and have fought for justice. The school’s decision doesn’t fix what he did to me but it restores some faith in the world. It is only a small step towards justice but a positive step indeed.”

Stuart is not mentioned by name in the post.

The post would indicate to readers that Stuart is, among other things, “of bad character,” “a criminal having committed sexual assault,” “a bad teacher” and “unprofessional,” the statement of claim says, and, as a result, Stuart has been “seriously injured in his profession, character, credit and reputation.”

The lawsuit also alleges that on July 26, Stuart received a letter from Keith’s Vancouver-based law firm which “threatened an action in the tort of battery against the plaintiff and the public being informed thereof” unless Stuart paid the student $200,000.

“In writing and publishing the (Facebook post), (the student) was motivated by an unjustifiable intention to inflict injury upon the plaintiff, resulting from her animosity, antagonism, bitterness, enmity, hostility, jealousy, rancour, rivalry or vindictiveness towards the plaintiff, and to extort money from the plaintiff,” the statement of claim reads.

It also suggests that the student wrote the post to deceive her boyfriend and assuage his “hurt feelings” while also “influencing” Stuart’s friends, neighbours, students, fellow college instructors and “members of the public” to “shun” him.

The latter endeavour has been successful, the lawsuit alleges, with Stuart suffering, since the Facebook post’s publication, “indignity,” “injury,” “insult,” “ostracization,” “shame,” “mental stress,” “financial loss” and “loss of reputation.”

The student has “failed to provide any or any adequate apology” for the Facebook post and has failed to retract the post, the lawsuit says. It also claims that the student “knew, or ought to have known” that the allegations in the post were false and could “deprive (Stuart) of employment and employment opportunities” as a college instructor, and generally, in the Yukon and elsewhere.

Stuart is seeking general, special, punitive and aggravated damages as well as an injunction restraining the student from publishing “the alleged, or any defamation,” and legal costs.

None of the claims have been tested in court.

As of the afternoon of Oct. 25, the student had not yet filed a statement of defence.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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