KENTVILLE, N.S. — Prominent Toronto pastor Brent Hawkes has been found not guilty of gross indecency and indecent assault in a Nova Scotia case stemming from the 1970s.
Provincial court Judge Alan Tufts handed down the verdict Tuesday in Kentville, N.S., saying he found significant inconsistencies in the testimony of the witnesses.
Hawkes, a high-profile rights activist who officiated at former NDP leader Jack Layton’s state funeral, was at the time a teacher in his mid-20s in the Annapolis Valley.
A man said Hawkes led him down a hallway naked during a drunken get-together at his trailer and forced oral sex on him in a bedroom when he was about 16 years old.
Two other men also testified they attended the get-together as teenagers, and one said he witnessed Hawkes performing oral sex on the complainant.
Tufts said Tuesday it’s not clear what happened in the bedroom that night.
“It’s easy to speculate, but that’s not something that’s permitted here,” said the judge.
The complainant held his head down as decision was read.
Hawkes had categorically denied the allegations.
Defence lawyer Clayton Ruby said in his closing argument in November that the entire case will be remembered as weird, amid “an abundance of evidence” that the testimony of the witnesses is unreliable.
Ruby said the Crown had “many problems” proving its case beyond a reasonable doubt, including that the alleged offences happened more than 40 years ago and that some witnesses testified they were drunk.
Ruby said there was a lot of unreliability in the testimony of the Crown witnesses, including “reconstructed” memories.
He pointed to a number of examples, including that the complainant said in his police statement that he was coerced into going to the trailer, but on the witness stand he admitted he had no memory of that happening.
Crown lawyer Bob Morrison called those types of details “extrinsic,” saying the complainant recalled the important memories clearly.
Morrison also said that Hawkes contradicted himself, noting that he said he didn’t serve alcohol to any students and was concerned about students drinking, but evidence shows he allowed students to drink while they were at his trailer.
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.