Human Rights Tribunal to hear complaint alleging UBCO mishandled sexual assault complaint
A B.C. Human Rights Tribunal hearing room is shown in this file image from March 29, 2010. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
VANCOUVER -- A B.C. Human Rights Tribunal hearing is set to start Monday after the B.C. Supreme Court recently dismissed a petition to prevent it from deciding on a complaint from a former student at the University of British Columbia.
The university's Okanagan campus had sought to stop the tribunal from hearing the complaint filed by Stephanie Hale, who alleges the school mishandled her report of sexual assault by another student in 2013.
The other student has denied the allegation, saying what happened was consensual.
The tribunal had agreed to hear part of Hale's complaint for an alleged contravention of the Human Rights Code between February 2016 and March 2017, when she was going through the university's process for handling reports of non-academic misconduct.
The school unsuccessfully petitioned the court in 2019 to quash that decision, arguing in part that the tribunal failed to properly confine itself to the evidence before it.
The tribunal had already dismissed other parts of Hale's complaint relating to events before February 2016, because they were filed after a six-month limitation period.
A tribunal document says Hale found the non-academic misconduct process unduly demanding and she was concerned about the lack of training by committee members to make non-discriminatory decisions.
The Canadian Press does not typically identify complainants in cases of sexual assault, but Hale wants her name used.
Hale reported the alleged assault to a residence adviser a week after she says it happened and she was directed to a campus medical facility, where she was not physically examined, the tribunal document says.
Hale says she was not referred at the time to the school's policies on sexual harassment and non-academic misconduct.
She says contact with her alleged attacker in class contributed to her declining mental health before she left her engineering program in 2015.
Hale was referred to the equity and inclusion office in February 2016, the document says, and she was later told campus security would investigate and forward its report to the committee.
It says Hale found “having to engage in continual advocacy for herself” made the process unduly demanding and stressful, and she argues it was not consistent with Human Rights Code requirements.
The committee later held a hearing without Hale after her psychologist advised she should not participate because she didn't trust the process.
Hale was told in March 2017 that the committee did not find on the balance of probabilities that her alleged attacker had engaged in misconduct.
With the other student cleared of wrongdoing, the tribunal document says, Hale did not return to campus.
“She states she was no longer able to trust the university to provide a safe, harassment-free and assault-free educational environment,” it says.
The tribunal had agreed three times to adjourn hearings over Hale's complaint, pending the outcome of the judicial review, but a decision released two days before the court dismissed the school's petition last month found a fourth adjournment would have been unreasonable and unduly prejudiced Hale.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 8, 2021. This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.