‘It gave me hope’: Protestors in Kentville speak out against Halifax taxi driver assault ruling

Published on March 9, 2017

Carrying colourful signs, protestors stood outside the Kentville provincial courthouse March 9 to send a message to Judge Gregory Lenehan after a controversial ruling in a sexual assault case involving a Halifax cab driver.

©Wendy Elliott

KENTVILLE, NS – Chanting, ringing bells and holding colourful, handmade signs, about 75 Acadia University students, community members and members of the Raging Grannies activist group protested outside the provincial courthouse in Kentville on March 9.

Acadia students Kylee Graham Emma Blanche organized the rally that the late afternoon drive home crowd honked for on Cornwallis Street.

Students Don Foley, Erin Norris and Paige Bothello said they were missing classes with permission to protest Judge Gregory Lenehan’s ruling in the case of a Halifax cab driver acquitted in a sexual assault case.

Reaction was swift to Lenehan’s decision. The judge who will be looking into the complaints is Associate Chief Judge Alan T. Tufts, who is based in Kentville.

Foley said he wanted to attend because it is only common sense to maintain that a drunk woman cannot give consent.

Read what the woman involved in the case has to say about the verdict here.

About 75 people attended the March 9 protest in Kentville

©Wendy Elliott

We also know that, as a community, we are no longer willing to ignore this and we are demanding change Dee Dooley

Representatives from the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre in Halifax spoke at the rally.

“We can say today, to this survivor, and to all survivors of sexualized violence and abuse, we believe you,” said community educator Frank Heimpel.

“Sexualized violence is intentional harm, not a mistaken belief in consent. Seventy-five per cent of sexual assaults are premeditated. Someone made an intentional choice to hurt and it’s not your fault.”

Dee Dooley, who also works for the centre, stated that Nova Scotia has one of the highest rates of sexual assault per capita coupled with one of the lowest reporting, charge and conviction rates across the country.

Representatives from the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre in Halifax spoke at the rally March 9 in Kentville

©Wendy Elliott

“We also know that, as a community, we are no longer willing to ignore this and we are demanding change,” Dooley said.

She was glad a review of the Halifax taxi driver’s acquittal had been announced, but added, “We still have a long way to go.”

There were several protests held in Halifax as well.

Tessa Janes of the Acadia Women’s Centre expressed her anger about the Halifax case and noted she is losing hope.

Pointing to the courthouse, Janes spoke of similar cases going through the courts in Kentville and advocated for continued pressure on people for a better form of justice. She would like to see judges take required training regarding the issue of consent.

Organizer Kylee Graham thanked all those who came out, including the Rae family who drove from Bridgetown.

“It gave me hope to see so many people as passionate about this topic as me, and so motivated to create change,” Graham said after the event. “This rally, along with the ones in Halifax, are what pushes for that change and everyone should be proud of themselves for taking part in it.”

The Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre Sexual Assault Services, along with 11 organizations working with survivors of sexualized violence from across the province, are calling for the removal from the bench of Lenehan following the ruling he made on March 1 that found taxi driver Bassam Al-Rawi not guilty of sexual assault.

“Lenehan’s judgement in this case demonstrates a clear disregard for and lack of understanding of sexual assault and definitions of consent as defined in the criminal code. Judge Lenehan has demonstrated he is incapable of fairly applying the law in cases of sexual assault and, therefore, must be removed from the bench,” said a media release issued by the women’s groups.