Protests outside Toronto courthouse following Ghomeshi acquittal
Karolyn Coorsh, CTVNews.ca
Published Thursday, March 24, 2016 2:16PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, March 24, 2016 10:08PM EDT
Emotions ran high outside the Toronto courthouse where former broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi was acquitted of all charges in his high-profile sexual assault case, as demonstrators express anger and disappointment over the ruling.
Dozens of protesters holding signs and chanting “We Believe Survivors” greeted Ghomeshi when he entered the courthouse at Old City Hall shortly after 9:30 a.m.. They were there again, approximately two hours later, after Justice Williams Horkins acquitted Ghomeshi on four counts of sexual assault and one count of overcoming resistance by choking.
In his ruling, Horkins cited issues of credibility with Ghomeshi’s accusers, and said their “suppression” of evidence and “deceptions” under oath made it difficult to trust their testimony. He told the court that conviction requires "proof beyond reasonable doubt."
The judgment was met with anger by demonstrators outside, who suggested it was the complainants in the case, not Ghomeshi, who were put on trial and judged for their actions.
Outside court after the ruling, a topless protester was hauled away by police after shouting “Ghomeshi guilty!” as Crown prosecutor Michael Callaghan made a statement to reporters.
Ghomeshi left court and got into a car without speaking to reporters after the ruling. His sister, Jila, made a brief statement to the media, saying the past year has been “extremely painful” for their family.
“My mother and I love Jian very much,” she said. “Our hardest burden has been our feeling of helplessness as we have watched him endure a punishment that was delivered not only prior to a verdict, but prior to any semblance of due process for well over a year.”
DeCoutere speaks at rally
The three complainants included actress Lucy DeCoutere, who chose to be publicly identified.
She later spoke before a crowd of supporters outside Toronto's Old City Hall.
"It's been a rough year or so and for me it's been a very small conversation between me and a couple of people. However, seeing all of your here right now, understanding that, it's fair to say, some of you had direct experience with violence, is that fair to say? Or had friends who have disclosed stuff to you, I just want to thank you so much for coming," she said.
"When this story first broke ... there was a wave of correspondence that came from various folks who were saying they believed me, but it was believing in survivors. It was entirely heart cracking and overwhelming, and so intensely humbling and through this whole thing anything I've said to anyone, in any of this, I've really had all of you in mind."
Legal experts and women’s organizations said the case highlights flaws in a court system that deals with such issues.
Lenore Lukasik-Foss, head of the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres said on CTV News Channel that, while she is saddened by the judgment, she is also not surprised.
“We know that the system is deeply flawed for dealing with sexual violence, particularly in cases that are historical, and also when the … victims are known to the accused person,” Lukasik-Foss said. “We know that this was a really difficult process, and we expected that this would be the outcome.”
Reaction to the judgment was swift online, too, including from Canadian politicians on all sides of the political spectrum. They included Ontario Progressive Conservative MPP Lisa MacLeod and Toronto Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, both of whom tweeted the hashtag #IBelieveSurvivors.
And you wonder why women do not come forward after abuse. #IBelieveSurvivors— Lisa MacLeod (@MacLeodLisa) March 24, 2016
Verdict aside the #Ghomeshi trial has confirmed for me that Canada's criminal + legal system is bias against sexual assault survivors.— Kristyn Wong-Tam (@kristynwongtam) March 24, 2016
Others expressed anger and sadness over the trial’s outcome, suggesting it could deter survivors of sexual abuse to come forward.
“Today I mourn for every single person who has been a victim of sexual abuse and been too afraid to come forward,” Canadian actress Tara Spencer-Nairn said in a tweet.
Ghomeshi’s charges and subsequent trial captured the attention of many outside Canada, too. Following the ruling, American comedian Margaret Cho tweeted: "Don't let the #Ghomeshi ruling keep you from naming your abuser. We need to keep fighting for all survivors. #IBelieveSurvivors"
Others thanked the three complainants in the Ghomeshi case for coming forward.
“So much gratitude to all the women who came forward to share their painful truths about Ghomeshi,” activist and author Naomi Klein wrote on Twitter. “To the court, to the press to each other.”
Chuck Thompson, the head of public affairs at CBC, Ghomeshi’s former employer, issued a statement, saying Ghomeshi’s charges and the subsequent ruling are “unrelated to our decision to end Jian Ghomeshi’s employment” at the CBC.
“Based on the evidence that came to our attention, Mr. Ghomeshi's actions were not in line with the values of the public broadcaster nor with our employee code of conduct,” Thompson said.
In an interview with CP24 on Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that he wouldn’t comment on the Ghomeshi ruling, but that the “question of violence against women is … very. very important to me.
“I certainly think that there will be a lot of discussions and a lot of thoughtful proposals as we move forward onto how we can continue to demonstrate that violence against women, in any type, is unacceptable,” Trudeau said.
With files from The Canadian Press