Court orders women accused of defaming UBC prof and author to share emails, online posts

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A B.C. Supreme Court judge has awarded author Steven Galloway access to emails between a woman who accused of him of sexual assault and staff at the University of British Columbia in the first test of a provincial law intended to protect freedom of expression. People walk past large letters spelling out UBC at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver on Nov. 22, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

VANCOUVER — A B.C. Supreme Court judge has awarded author Steven Galloway access to emails between a woman who accused of him of sexual assault and staff at the University of British Columbia in a test of a provincial law intended to protect freedom of expression.

Galloway, who is the former chair of the university’s creative writing department, filed lawsuits against the woman and two dozen others last October, alleging he was defamed by false allegations of sexual and physical assaults made by the woman and repeated by others.

The woman and two others applied to have the lawsuit thrown out under the province’s Protection of Public Participation Act that came into effect in March and aims to protect critics on matters of public interest from lawsuits intended to silence or punish them.

Although the defamation action is essentially stayed until the dismissal application is dealt with by the court, Galloway had requested access to further documentation that he argued he needed to defend his case against dismissal.

In her ruling released Friday, Justice Catherine Murray says she believes it’s the first time a court in British Columbia has been asked to rule on whether a plaintiff like Galloway is entitled to request information and documentation on the cross-examination allowed under the new act and if so, what disclosure he’s entitled to.

She ordered the release of emails and documentation the woman provided the university to back up her allegation, as well as screenshots of tweets and Facebook posts made by the other two women who joined the dismissal application and other materials.

“I am advised that this is a matter of first impression; no court in British Columbia has yet considered this question,” Murray says in the ruling.