‘I’m glad this is over’

Toronto pas­tor found not guilty of in­de­cency

Cape Breton Post - - CAPE BRETON/PROVINCE - BY ALY THOM­SON THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

The tes­ti­mony of a man who claimed Brent Hawkes forced oral sex upon him more than 40 years ago was com­pelling but in­con­sis­tent, a Nova Sco­tia judge ruled Tues­day as he ac­quit­ted the prom­i­nent Toronto pas­tor.

“The com­plainant gave a very vivid and de­tailed ac­count of what he al­leged the ac­cused did to him in the bed­room of the ac­cused’s mo­bile home,’’ said Kentville pro­vin­cial court Judge Alan Tufts.

“There are sig­nif­i­cant in­con­sis­ten­cies in the tes­ti­monies of the var­i­ous wit­nesses . ... In the end, it is not clear what hap­pened in the bed­room that evening. It is easy to spec­u­late, but that is some­thing that is not per­mit­ted here.’’

Hawkes, a high-pro­file rights ac­tivist who of­fi­ci­ated at former NDP leader Jack Lay­ton’s state fu­neral, was fac­ing charges of gross in­de­cency and in­de­cent as­sault.

The com­plainant held his head down as the de­ci­sion was read, while Hawkes clutched the hand of a loved one.

His sup­port­ers clapped and smiled when he was de­clared not guilty.

Out­side the court­room, Hawkes thanked his sup­port­ers and fam­ily.

“I’m so glad this is over so that I re­turn home and serve my church and my com­mu­nity as best I can,’’ said Hawkes, read­ing from a small piece of pa­per and re­fus­ing to an­swer any ques­tions. The com­plainant did not speak as he left the court­house.

But Crown lawyer Bob Mor­ri­son said the mid­dle-aged man, who can­not be iden­ti­fied un­der a pub­li­ca­tion ban, was pre­pared for “any out­come.’’

“He is aware that th­ese his­tor­i­cal sex­ual as­sault cases are dif­fi­cult,’’ said Mor­ri­son out­side of court.

“His at­ti­tude was... ‘I’m go­ing to come for­ward. I’m go­ing to say what hap­pened to me. I’m go­ing to tell the truth, and leave the rest up to the judge. So while he wanted to be here to hear the de­ci­sion, he wasn’t caught up in what the de­ci­sion was go­ing to be and how it was go­ing to im­pact his life.’’

The al­le­ga­tions stemmed from events in the 1970s, when Hawkes was a teacher in his mid-20s in the An­napo­lis Valley.

The com­plainant told the court last Novem­ber that he was 16 years old when Hawkes led him down a hall­way naked dur­ing a drunken get-to­gether at Hawkes’ trailer and forced oral sex on him in a bed­room.

Two other men tes­ti­fied they at­tended the get-to­gether as teenagers and one said he wit­nessed Hawkes per­form­ing oral sex on the com­plainant in the liv­ing room. The com­plainant had dis­puted in his tes­ti­mony that oral sex had taken place in the liv­ing room.

“This in­con­sis­tency un­der­mines the re­li­a­bil­ity of the com­plainant’s tes­ti­mony,’’ said Tufts in his 59-page de­ci­sion.

“Fur­ther­more, the very in­tox­i­cated state the com­plainant was ap­par­ently in ... un­der­mines, in my opin­ion, the vivid de­tails he said he re­calls about that evening.’’

Tufts also said the process the com­plainant used to re­mem­ber the de­tails of the evening sug­gests he may have “re­con­structed or recre­ated’’ the events — some­thing Hawkes’ de­fence lawyer Clay­ton Ruby ar­gued re­peat­edly dur­ing the trial.

Ruby was not present on Tues­day, but in a state­ment, he said: “We had a good hear­ing with a good judge and are de­lighted that Rev. Hawkes can now con­tinue the self­less work that has shaped his con­tri­bu­tion to so­ci­ety for over 40 years.’’

Doug El­liott, chair­man of the Brent Hawkes Sup­port Fund, said out­side court that sup­port for the pas­tor has not wa­vered since he was charged.

“I think that his rep­u­ta­tion has been cleared now,’’ said El­liott, adding that more than $100,000 was raised through do­na­tions for Hawkes’ le­gal fees.

“There are a lot of peo­ple in the com­mu­nity who are very grate­ful for the hu­man rights work that has been done by Rev. Hawkes over the years ... He is an out­stand­ing cit­i­zen of our coun­try and it is a shame what he has had to go through in con­nec­tion with this pro­ceed­ing.’’

Orig­i­nally from Bath, N.B., Hawkes is a high-pro­file rights ac­tivist who has been se­nior pas­tor at the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Com­mu­nity Church of Toronto for 38 years. He is known as a vo­cal pro­po­nent of same-sex mar­riage, and in 2007 was ap­pointed to the Or­der of Canada.

CP PHOTO

Brent Hawkes, right, and his lawyer An­na­maria Ene­na­jor fol­lowed by sup­port­ers head from pro­vin­cial court in Kentville on Tues­day. The Toronto pas­tor was found not guilty of in­de­cent as­sault and gross in­de­cency in the case the dealt with al­le­ga­tions dat­ing to the 1970s.

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