Former Qualicum Beach teacher Donald Barber has filed a B.C. Supreme Court lawsuit agains lawyer Marli Rusen, who conducted an investigation on behalf of the Nanaimo School District.
In his civil claim, Mr. Barber stated that he suffered “personal embarrassment and humiliation” as a result of a teenager’s allegations of horrific abuse, and what he deemed to be an inadequate investigation into those reports.
Barber was fired on March 15, 2003, after a grade nine student alleged that he sexually abused, tortured her over a period of years. According to court documents filed by Mr. Barber, the student recounted these allegations to a school counsellor in 2012.
The student alleged that the teacher burned words into her abdomen and nearly drowned her by “water-boarding”, and attempted to bury her alive. The student also separately alleged that a police officer raped her and that she was forced into prostitution by another man named “John”.
On September 30, 2012, Mr. Barber was arrested by the R.C.M.P. Crown counsel later declined to approve the charges. The school district then hired an independent investigator to look into the girl’s allegations.
The independent investigator, Ms. Rusen, recommended that School District 69 ban the teacher from having any contact with students and be barred from school property. He was subsequently fired in 2013. Prior to this incident, Mr. Barber had an spotless disciplinary record.
Arbitrator Joan McEwen authored a comprehensive report on the matter in 2014, as part of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation’s (BCTF) grievance process, as Mr. Barber attempted to get his job back. Ms. McEwen’s investigation indicated that based on the information she had at hand, it was clear to “everyone” that the student could not be believed, and that the teacher should be “made whole as soon as possible.”
News outlets have reported that the girls’ parents did not have any behavioural or health indicators consistent with her reports of abuse. Medical reports apparently did not back up her claims. Moreover, the girl was a fan of the T.V. program, Law and Order Special Victims Unit, having watched the episodes repeatedly; the allegations were consistent with an episode of the program.
The School District and the BCTF are currently meeting in Nanaimo regarding Mr. Barber’s claim for damages relating to the teacher’s lost wages and loss of reputation.
Allegations of wrong-doing by the independent investigator have not been proven in court. Court dates for the matter were not available at the time of this article.
In her Blog, on April 10, 2015, Ms. Rusen made a general statement about her role as an Investigator:
“In threatening legal action, individuals presumably hope to pressure organizations into turning a blind eye to potential wrongdoing in the workplace. Perhaps they hope that, with enough heat, organizations will be scared into not asking the tough questions, the questions that need to be asked.”
She further stated:
“I will not stop doing what I do. I will continue to investigate complex and difficult cases in a fair and objective manner. I will continue to make difficult calls about individuals’ credibility and wrongdoing. I will continue to reach findings with which complainants and/or respondents disagree (statistically, one party will always disagree).”
Arbitrator Joan McEwen, who wrote the comprehensive report for the BCTF, recently authored a book about Ivan Henry, a Vancouver man who spent 27 years in jail for 10 sexual assaults he did not commit. He was acquitted by the B.C. Court of Appeal in 2010.
Jayne Embree, M.A.
Jayne holds a Masters in Psychology and is a highly experienced Divorce Coach and Child Specialist. She is currently working with the Administrative and Human Resources Departments of Butterfield Law.