Long battle over prof’s firing continues with new twists

The plot thickens as Steven Galloway’s war drags on.

The award-winning Kamloops author never imagined that his career would become mired in a warzone similar to the one portrayed in his award-winning novel.

Things looked rosy for Galloway until he came under fire in 2016. His life now in ruins, he earns a bare living doing physical labour.

Galloway attended the University College of the Cariboo in the 1990s before it became Thompson Rivers University.

He is best known for his 2008 novel The Cellist of Sarajevo which sold 700,000 copies, was translated into twenty languages, and had film options. His prospects soared and he became chair of the creative writing program at the University of British Columbia in 2015.

image: NBC News

In Galloway’s novel, set in the 1990s Siege of Sarajevo, a cellist watches as a shell falls and kills people waiting in a bread line. To commemorate the dead, the cellist is determined to play an Adagio in the crater created by the blast while avoiding sniper fire.

Now under siege, Galloway grimly watches as friends and foes exchange shots.

Galloway was terminated in 2016 over breach of trust and misconduct. A former student of his known as A.B. claims that Galloway had abusive sexual relations with her from 2011 to 2013. He says the relations were consensual.

In 2018, an arbitrator ruled that UBC had harmed Galloway’s reputation and the author was awarded $167,000.

Now Galloway sees some light from the pit dug by the explosive allegations. The B.C. Supreme Court recently ruled that his court case can proceed.

The plot of Galloway’s rise and fall has twists and turns worthy of a novel.

At first, Galloway had reason for hope that A.B.’s charges would prove unsubstantiated. In 2015, UBC hired retired B.C. judge Mary Ellen Boyd to investigate the matter. She found that it was not likely that Galloway committed sexual assault or assault (Globe and Mail Dec. 3 2021)

More support came for Galloway in form of a letter from some of Canada’s most celebrated writers, including Margaret Atwood. In 2016, she wrote:

“My position is that the UBC process was flawed and failed both sides, and the rest of my position is that the model of the Salem Witchcraft Trials is not a good one (Vancouver Sun Nov. 17 2016).”

The letter sparked an online backlash from former students who said the letter was an attempt to silence and intimidate them.

Andrea Bennett, a former student who said she witnessed her friend being slapped by Galloway but did not file a complaint, said she was disappointed by the letter (Maclean’s Nov. 16, 2016).

That prompted some of the writers to withdraw their names from the letter. Yann Martel author of the Life of Pi author, said:

“I did NOT sign the letter to defend an empowered white male. I did NOT sign it to silence young women, or anyone else (Maclean’s Nov. 16, 2016).”

Galloway shot back with a defamation suit against A.B. and 20 of her supporters.

A.B. and others fired back with a request to throw out the defamation suit in order to protect their freedom of expression. Under B.C. law, a legal action can be shut down if a court deems it to be a strategic attempt to silence and intimidate others, called anti-SLAPP law.

In a win for Galloway, Justice Elaine Adair firmly rejected the anti-SLAPP arguments. Galloway’s defamation suit can now proceed. Justice Elaine Adair said that there have to be consequences for “publishing on Twitter,” and added:

“It is difficult to see how something so extreme and potentially reckless [as A.B.’s] would be in the public interest (Globe and Mail Dec. 3 2021).”

Removal of links and the death of history on the internet

Convicted killer Clifford Olson would probably have preferred that any account of his murder of eleven children and young people in the 1980s removed from the internet. Links such as this Wikipedia article which detail the grisly horror.

Courtesy of Gizmodo

Courtesy of Gizmodo

A B.C. technology company also wants links removed for a completely different reason. Equustek’s wants Google to remove links to a competitor’s website. Equustek successfully sued that competitor for theft of their hardware design but the competitor persisted on selling it online. The B.C. Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that Google had to comply with Equustek’s request and remove the links. Google complied reluctantly.

However, the court order lays bare a much bigger problem than murder or industrial theft –the erasure of history on the internet. At issue is whether anyone, of motives pure or corrupt, should be able to remove records of significant historical events. Katherine Maher from Wikipedia worries about the jurisdiction of any court to remove history.

“If any country can demand the worldwide removal of search results, vast sections of history, science and culture could disappear from the global Internet. This could infringe on our ability to learn about the history of Tiananmen Square, the potential medical properties of cannabis, the discoveries of Darwin, or unsavoury allegations against the U.S. president-elect (Globe and Mail, Dec 9, 2016).”

Google doesn’t think it’s fair either and has taken their case to the Supreme Court of Canada where issue is currently being deliberated.

But Google is just the messenger. They don’t make webpages, they just find them.  While I’m reluctant to defend global corporate giants, I’m on Google’s side on this one. So are lawyers Ivo Entchev and Jeremy Opoplsky. Not only has the Google been “deputized” to carry out duties of Canadian law but Google is not even incorporated in B.C.

“Google did nothing wrong, but is being forced to bear the cost and responsibility to fix the problem.” “Moreover, Google is concerned by the prospect that court orders from a single jurisdiction can require the search engine to change its worldwide results Globe and Mail Dec. 11, 2016).”

So far, the Supreme Court sees only the little picture. Dissuaded by the threat to history and Google’s argument that the court doesn’t have global jurisdictions, Justice Rosalie Abella was sympathetic to arguments from Equustek’s lawyer.

“Just looking at it from the public interest point of view and the public perception point of view, you really think the public is going to line up behind the right to distribute internationally illegal contraband?” Justice Rosalie Abella asked, “What’s the harm to Google in preventing illegal activity in its wide distributive reach (Globe and Mail, Dec. 6, 2016)?”

If I may respond, Madame Abella, the harm in preventing illegal activity through the deletion of links is that search engines are not the problem. Google is simply shining a spotlight on the grimy nooks and interesting crannies of the world; some of them are illegitimate businesses that well-intentioned Equustek would like to eliminate; others that murderers, tyrants and presidents-elect would prefer remain unseen.

Fear Dr. Day

Supporters of health care held their collective breath last month as the votes were counted in the election for the president of Doctors of BC. This was a runoff vote; the first one ended in a tie.

dr-alan-ruddiman

Dr. Alan Ruddiman, OPD Newsfeed

The candidates for president couldn’t have been more different in their vision for healthcare. Dr. Ruddiman wants to preserve our universal system in which patients are treated regardless of their ability to pay. His opponent, Dr. Day wants to set up a two-tier system in which wealthy patients buy treatment.

To the relief of everyone, Dr. Ruddiman won by a substantial margin although the turnout was only 50 per cent. Shortly after winning the physician from Oliver urged his colleagues to take a stand in defence of public health care. “It is fundamental that the medical profession take a firm stand for our publicly funded health care system (Globe and Mail, June 23, 2015)”

However, it’s too early to break out the champagne just yet. Dr. Day is determined undermine publicly funded health care and he doesn’t have to be president of Doctors of BC to do it. The B.C. Ministry of Health found that Dr. Day had been illegally charging patients. In one month alone, his Cambie Surgery Centre had billed patients $500,000.

Billing patients is illegal. The Medicare Protection Act of B.C., which parallels the Canada Health Act, states that the goals are to “preserve a publicly managed and fiscally sustainable health care system for British Columbia in which access to necessary medical care is based on need and not an individual’s ability to pay.

In retaliation to the audit from the B.C. Ministry of Health, Dr. Day launched a court case against the provincial government alleging that the Medical Protection Act violated his rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In a warped sense of justice, Dr. Day sees himself a victim of a single-payer system. Wait times could be reduced, he argues, if patients were allowed to pay for treatment.

On first consideration, Dr. Day’s argument seems to make sense say Drs. Duncan Etches and Michael Klein. “At first glance, it might seem logical that allowing patients to pay privately at for-profit clinics would take paying patients off public wait lists, allowing others to move up the list faster (Monitor, a magazine from the Centre for Canadian Policy Alternatives, March, 2015).”

If it weren’t illegal, if there were an unlimited number of doctors, the argument might make sense. But there is a limited number of doctors. Because some surgeons work in both the private and public systems, for-profit clinics make surgeons unavailable in the public clinics; a phenomenon known as “crowding out” that can be seen in Quebec and Australia that have two-tier systems.

Also, private clinics skim off easier cases leaving difficult ones to the now underserved public system.

Even without the threat from Dr. Day, insidious corporate growth eats away at our healthcare says Dr. Ruddiman. “The threats of the corporatization of medicine and the barriers of layered administration that now exist in delivering efficient health care are a threat to the very ethos of medicine and indeed the profession.”