Update on Hawkes Trial

The first week of trial has been completed, and news reports may have given a misleading impression of what took place. Here are some thoughts from Kim Vance, our co-chair, who was in the courtroom for part of the trial. The proceedings will wrap up this week, and the judge will deliver his verdict sometime after that.

 “I was in Kentville supporting Brent Hawkes in court today. I listened to a surreal tale, interspersed with references to quantum physics and angel therapy, that alleged that a small 20-something closeted gay teacher in rural Annapolis Valley in the 70's had extreme power over a star basketball player nicknamed the "stud stallion". It was the same courthouse where a guy claiming a “gay panic” successfully beat a charge of murdering a local gay man, in the 90's. The irony of these two cases in the same courthouse was not lost on me. One was a case where someone thought an advance from a gay man was so revolting that it justified his killing him. The other, decades earlier, was a case where a closeted gay male teacher was said to wield so much coercive power over an individual that he could not resist the gay man's advances, although by his own testimony he did not try to.

This case should have never gone to trial. I believe homophobia and gender drove it there. Compare this to the situation of young girls whose allegations stories of assault by men never make it to trial. The police and/or Crown discourage them on the basis that they were drunk or it will be his word against yours, despite the fact the stories are believable and there is evidence that sex took place. I wonder whether the only thing different here is the gay factor, and the power of male privilege.

I think of Rehtaeh Parsons and how even a sex video that showed her so intoxicated that she was vomiting out a window is not sufficient to prove lack of consent.  How do these 40-year-old allegations warrant a two-week trial based only on he said vs. he said evidence. It was 40 years ago, so everybody's memory is foggy, and even basic evidence is hard to gather or no longer available. The alleged victim fully admits he was extremely drunk and can't fit pieces of his own story together.

It was painful to watch a friend get drawn through the mud by allegations that have hauntingly homophobic histories. It's been especially painful because, even if it believed an assault took place, the crown used a gratuitous charge of gross indecency despite a litany of reasons not to.

Hopefully, truth and reason will prevail in this case, and Brent can move on. It would be nice is the Crown in this province would start believing and supporting other victims (especially young vulnerable girls) in the same way they supported this middle-aged white guy with a 40 year old story and no evidence. As our nation moves forward on ridding ourselves of our homophobic legacies, we can hopefully stop using charges that have already eliminated from the criminal code, even on historical cases. I only want to sit one more day in a courtroom in my lifetime (the final day of closing arguments)”.

 It will be up to the judge to decide the facts and the law. The Crown has completed its case, and Brent has testified and been cross examined.

Here is what is what is undisputed.

There is only one complainant. Everyone agrees that the complainant and his two friend came to Brent’s trailer and drank alcohol with Brent about 40 years ago. Only one sexual incident is alleged to have occurred. Only Brent and the complainant were present when the sexual incident allegedly took place in Brent’s bedroom. The complainant’s two friends can only testify to the fact that they were all there one night, a fact Brent does not dispute. They say they did not witness the alleged sexual activity.

There are many discrepancies among the Crown’s witnesses and between those witnesses and Brent.

Brent says no sex took place and that there was nothing remarkable about the night. He was unemployed and it was his last summer in Nova Scotia. Many friends had dropped by that summer to wish him well and have a drink.

A number of press reports have asserted that the three friends were 16 and that Brent was their teacher at the time. However, Brent’s lawyer used a proof of purchase to prove that Brent did not own the trailer when the witnesses were 16.  This corroborated Brent’s evidence that the visit took place in the summer of 1976, after he had finished teaching and after the complainant had graduated.

The complainant also testified that Brent was his Grade 9 home room teacher. When shown a document proving that Brent was still in university when the complainant was in Grade 9, the complainant refused to admit that he was wrong. Brent testified that he was never the complainant’s teacher.

There was also evidence of previous mistaken testimony. The complainant was in a bad car accident in 1975, before he turned 17. A Court found that at the time that he was responsible for that accident and had given false testimony. When asked about that Court decision, the complainant became upset and claimed that he had never seen the ruling before.

The complainant says he was very drunk, but remembers going naked down Brent’s hallway with Brent, either carried or supported by Brent. One of the “corroborating” witnesses said that he had seen Brent go down the hall, but that the complainant was fully clothed complainant and followed later. Brent testified that he had no recollection of such an incident. Neither did the other of the Crown’s witnesses.

We hope that justice will prevail in the end.

We still need your financial help to support Brent and John through this ordeal.