British Columbia

Former undercover officer and hockey coach sued by 3 men for alleged sexual assault

Three men who allege they were sexually assaulted by an undercover Abbotsford RCMP officer in the '80s have won the right to proceed with their civil claims against both their alleged abuser and the attorney general of Canada.

Men claim they were assaulted in early '80s, often in accused's police vehicle

The allegations go back more than three decades, when the defendant, Donald Cooke, was an undercover police officer in Abbotsford and the coach of a minor hockey team. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Three men who allege they were sexually assaulted by an undercover Abbotsford RCMP officer in the '80s have won the right to proceed with their civil claims against both their alleged abuser and the attorney general of Canada.

The allegations go back more than three decades, when the defendant, Donald Cooke, was an undercover police officer in Abbotsford and the coach of a minor hockey team that two of the plaintiffs — who were minors at the time — played on.

The two men who played on the team allege Cooke "cultivated a relationship with them for the purpose of promoting and realizing his intention to sexually assault them," according to B.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson's reasons for judgment.

All three men claim they were sexually assaulted by Cooke beginning in 1982 and ending in either 1984 or 1985, and that the assaults often took place in his police vehicle.

Hinkson ruled that the three claims will be heard at the same time and before the same judge.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

In the mid-2000s, Cooke was investigated and arrested by the RCMP over allegations of sexual assault, but by 2009 it was announced no charges would be laid.

Cooke reached a settlement with the RCMP in 2015 and, admitting no wrongdoing, was paid a lump sum and deemed eligible for an RCMP pension.

In response to two of the civil claims against him, Cooked petitioned the B.C. Supreme Court to have the cases dismissed because the plaintiffs were taking too long.

Hinkson didn't agree.

1st claim filed in 2011

Cooke and his defence team argued the cases should be thrown out because too much time had passed without the plaintiffs taking significant steps to advance their claims.

The first lawsuit was filed in 2011, followed by another in 2015 and the third in 2019. 

Cooke argued that the delays were intentional and tactical to benefit the plaintiffs' trials.

The three men, who all share the same lawyer, argued there were just reasons for the delays.

Their lawyer, Robert Mostar, said the delay could partially be blamed on efforts to join all three claims as one.

A close-up picture of an RCMP badge.
The attorney general of Canada is also listed as a defendant because Cooke worked for the RCMP as an undercover officer at time of the alleged assaults. (CBC)

It was also argued that the delays were due to the extreme difficulty that victims who were minors at the time of their sexual abuses have in pursuing claims against their alleged assaulters.

Justice Hinkson acknowledged the difficulty in his decision.

"I accept that even once a victim of sexual assault has made a complaint about the assault, he or she cannot be expected to act with the same dispatch that is expected of those making complaints with respect to more commonly experienced traumas," Hinkson wrote in his decision.

In 2018, it was noted that one of the victims was also dealing with a cancer diagnosis, adding to the delay.

'A sword that cuts both ways'

Cooke claimed he suffered trauma due to his arrest and the civil action against him, adding he has lost his friends, been marginalized by his family and undergone experimental treatment to deal with that trauma.

And while Hinkson acknowledged the allegations have hung over the defendant, he said "if the allegations against the defendant Cooke are dismissed without their determination on their merits, a great injustice may be done to the plaintiffs."

The defence also argued the delays risked the fairness of the trial because of lapses in memory and the deaths of potential witnesses.

But again, Hinkson decided it's "a sword that cuts both for and against the parties."

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