Global News Toronto
15 December 2016
KENTVILLE, N.S. — Brent Hawkes watched intently Tuesday as a man tearfully testified that the Toronto pastor encouraged teenage males to strip at a drunken party in the 1970s, and then took him to a bedroom for sex.
“I remember him saying he knew he’d have me, he had been grooming for two years by that point in time,” the man, who said he was then about 16, told Hawkes’ trial in Kentville provincial court.
The witness, who can’t be identified under a publication ban, said he was part of a group of people who went to Hawkes’ trailer home in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley, where Hawkes suggested they play a stripping game.
The witness said Hawkes led him naked to a bedroom.
“I remember barely being able to stand up. I remember almost like watching from above, an out of body experience, wondering why this was happening,” he said.
He testified that Hawkes told him he was beautiful and performed sexual acts on him.
“I remember him telling me, ‘I want to take you to Provincetown because,’ and I quote, ‘All the other (gay men) there would be jealous.”‘
Hawkes, a high-profile rights activist who officiated at former NDP leader Jack Layton’s state funeral in 2011, was then a local high school basketball coach.
He has pleaded not guilty to charges of indecent assault and gross indecency, none of which has been proven in court.
As the witness broke down on the stand, Hawkes sat and listened intently, looking towards the man from the gallery. He clutched a white pen during the proceedings, with a black notebook open on his lap.
The witness said he doesn’t remember how he got home that night, or subsequent events at the time.
“For the next period of time, days, weeks, months, I know now what I did was disassociate from the event as a way of protecting myself because I didn’t want to remember,” he testified.
He said it was frustrating when he tried to remember as he went on a “journey of recovery,” but could recall mostly only passing moments.
“Bits and pieces every now and then will flash back in – a thought here, a memory here, a picture here, a scent, a sound, a noise. It doesn’t make sense. None of it makes sense,” he said.
The witness told the court that he forgives Hawkes.
“At that point in time, he was doing the best he could,” said the witness, breaking down on the stand, crying into his hands and taking deep breaths.
“I will never forget his actions nor forgive his actions. But I forgive him. And most importantly, I forgive myself. It took time to learn how to do that and to say that.”
Defence lawyer Clayton Ruby appeared to question the witness on the reliability of his memories of the party, but the witness denied that his memory of the events were poor.
“I will not forget the sensation of what was done to me,” he said. “The images are real. They are firmly implanted in my memory.”
Hawkes, originally from Bath, N.B., has been the senior pastor at the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto for 38 years. Considered one of the spiritual leaders of Toronto’s gay community, he is also known as a vocal proponent of same-sex marriage, and in 2007 was appointed to the Order of Canada.
KENTVILLE, N.S.—Witnesses at the trial of Toronto pastor Rev. Brent Hawkes described the religious leader performing a sexual act on a teenage male and walking down a hallway nude during an alcohol-fuelled party at his Nova Scotia trailer in the 1970s.
One witness said he watched Hawkes perform oral sex on his friend on the floor of his home in the Greenwood, N.S., area during a party sometime in the mid-1970s.
“I couldn’t believe it,” the man testified in Kentville provincial court Monday at the trial of Hawkes, an influential gay rights advocate who officiated at former NDP leader Jack Layton’s state funeral in 2011.
The witness said he knew Hawkes when he was a student and that Hawkes was a basketball coach and teacher at a school in the Annapolis Valley.
He said he was about 16 years old when a group of people went to Hawkes’ home. The witness said he remembers only a few things about that night.
“It’s not so much what I remember, but what, after 40 years, I’ve been unable to forget,” said the man, dressed in a blue blazer and jeans.
Hawkes took the young man to a small bathroom, and told him that he had been watching him, and was “80 per cent sure I was gay,” he said.
“I said ‘No, I don’t think so. I’m pretty sure I know my orientation’ . . . . It was uncomfortable. It was very uncomfortable,” the witness said, later telling the defence he felt that Hawkes was hitting on him.
He said they eventually returned to the living room, and he later looked over to see Hawkes performing oral sex on his friend.
Defence lawyer Clayton Ruby appeared to question the witness on the accuracy of his memories of the evening, noting that last year he told police how many people were in the trailer home that night, but he could not recall that on the stand Monday.
“It’s not what I remember sir. It’s what I cannot forget,” the witness said. “After 40 years, I’m trying to forget everything I can about that night.”
Hawkes, wearing a black suit with a burgundy tie and glasses, sat in the front row of the gallery, listened intently and took notes inside a black notebook during the testimony Monday. Several of his supporters sat in rows behind him.
Hawkes has pleaded not guilty to charges of indecent assault and gross indecency. Nova Scotia’s Public Prosecution Service has said the alleged victim was 15 or 16 years old at the time.
Another man testified Monday he was also at the party that night, and alcohol was being consumed.
“Several hours in, we were underway. We were drunk. But it was a weird drunk,” the witness said, saying there was a game being played which required clothes to be taken off.
“When you have four or five heterosexual men in their underwear, you know there’s something going on.”
When asked by the Crown if there were physical acts that happened at the trailer, the witness put his head down for several seconds and replied, “Yes.”
He choked back tears as he described engaging in masturbation with another teenage male in a bedroom where two other people were present. However, he said he didn’t recall how he came to be in that situation and said he didn’t recall Hawkes being in the room.
The witness also testified that he later saw Hawkes go down the hallway of the trailer with another one of his school friends, and that both were nude.
Both witnesses said they never spoke of the party again until police contacted them more than a year ago.
None of the allegations has been proven in court.
Hawkes has maintained his innocence. He issued a statement earlier this year saying: “I want to be crystal clear: I am innocent of these allegations . . . . The purported events simply did not take place. I will fight, with all that I have, these accusations.”
According to the “Support Brent” website, Hawkes attended Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B., and later moved to the Annapolis Valley from 1973 to 1976.
Hawkes, originally from Bath, N.B., has been the senior pastor at the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto for 38 years. Considered one of the spiritual leaders of Toronto’s gay community, he is also known as a vocal proponent of same-sex marriage, and, in 2007, was appointed to the Order of Canada.
Man testifies he witnessed prominent Toronto pastor perform sex act on friend in N.S.
Brent Hawkes, Toronto pastor accused of sex crimes, pleads not guilty
Hawkes did not appear in person in Kentville provincial court
CBC News Nova Scotia
The Canadian Press Posted: Apr 11, 2016 6:23 AM AT Last Updated: Apr 11, 2016 8:56 PM AT
A prominent Toronto pastor has pleaded not guilty to decades-old sex-crime allegations in Nova Scotia.
Rev. Brent Hawkes is accused of indecent assault and gross indecency related to allegations of a sexual assault in the 1970s.
As expected, Hawkes did not appear in provincial court on Monday in Kentville, N.S.
Halifax lawyer Joel Pink appeared on behalf of Hawkes’s lawyer, Clayton Ruby.
Not guilty pleas were entered on the charges and a trial date set for Nov. 14. The trial is expected to last seven days.
Hawkes — a gay rights advocate who is the pastor at the Metropolitian Community Church of Toronto and who officiated at former NDP leader Jack Layton’s state funeral in 2014 — has maintained his innocence and says he will fight the accusations.
A ‘leader’ in the fight for human rights
Speaking at the non-profit organization Canadian and Gay Lesbian Archives in Toronto on Monday, supporters of Hawkes called him a community “pillar” and “leader in the fight for LGBT human rights.”
“It is important to point out that the charges of gross indecency and indecent assault against a male were put into the Criminal Code 100 years ago to pursue members of the LGBTQ community,” LGBT civil rights activist Rachel Lauren Clark said.
Clark spoke along with human rights lawyer Douglas Elliott, who’s a friend of Hawkes. They announced a fund to help offset the legal costs of fighting the charges laid against him.
Elliott recalled marching on Yonge Street 30 years ago with Hawkes to protest against Toronto’s “bathhouse raids.” On Feb. 5, 1981 Toronto police raided four gay bathhouses, arresting almost 300 people.
Elliott argued Monday that the charge of gross indecency was “invented in Victorian times to make all forms of gay sex illegal” and to make convictions against gay men easier.
Because the charges against Hawkes date back about 40 years, he can only be charged under laws that existed at the time. That means that the charge of sexual assault, which was introduced after the alleged incident occurred cannot apply in Hawkes’ case, Elliott said.
Clark emphasized that sexual assault must be taken seriously and that victims must be supported.
A third of the money left over after Hawkes’ legal battle will be donated to a sexual assault survivors’ organization. Another third will go toward efforts in support of the wrongfully accused and a final third to the church where Hawkes is a pastor.
“We thought this bad law was dead and buried when it was repealed in 1985 but it has come back to haunt Brent and our community today,” Elliot said.