London·Exclusive

London principal takes legal action against poet Najwa Zebian

Papers filed on behalf of London principal Michael Deeb advised London poet Najwa Zebian that she's being sued for defamation.

Poet and teacher Najwa Zebian has said Michael Deeb abused his power when she was starting her career in 2015

London teacher and poet Najwa Zebian named Deeb as someone who abused his power when she was starting out as a teacher in London, and pursued a personal relationship with her over time beginning in 2015. Through his lawyer Faisal Joseph, Deeb denied the allegations and told CBC News that Zebian is misleading the public. (Facebook)

Najwa Zebian is being sued for defamation. 

Legal papers were filed on behalf of London principal and community leader Michael Deeb against Zebian, who has accused Deeb of abuse of power. 

The formal notice of defamation and slander, the first step in a defamation suit, was given to Zebian Thursday, the day before she is to give a public speech at a women's day fundraiser.

Deeb is on a leave of absence from the Thames Valley District School Board.

Zebian is a teacher with the board, and is also a popular poet.

Accusations by Zebian against Deeb highlighted the #MeToo movement in London and led to to the city's police services board to ask for an investigation by the Ontario Civilian Police Commission. 
Michael Deeb is a principal at H.B. Beal and a member of the Police Services Board (Colin Butler/CBC News)

That required Deeb to step down while the probe is conducted. 

Also receiving the formal legal notice letters are the Huffington Post, which wrote about Zebian's allegations, and another woman who has accused Deeb of abusing his power. 

Through his lawyer Faisal Joseph, Deeb has denied the allegations and told CBC news that Zebian is misleading the public. 

"As far as International Women's Day is concerned, we're hopeful that aggrieved women with legitimate harassment complaints get real justice and continue to speak up," Joseph said. 

"But I also wish, personally, that those with illegitimate or fake complaints get justice as well for what they've done to innocent people. It's gone from one extreme to the other." 

​Zebian is to give the keynote speech at the International Women's Day breakfast Friday, put on annually by the London Abused Women's Centre. 

Her lawyer, Phil Millar, told CBC his client will address the legal action during her speech in front of an expected crowd of 700 Londoners. 

The Abused Women's Centre said Zebian was chosen to give the keynote because she draws on her own experiences of "displacement, discrimination and abuse" to encourage others to find strength. 

An investigation was done by the Thames Valley District School Board at the time of the allegations, two years ago.  

Deeb continued with the school board, as did Zebian. 

The Ontario Civilian Police Commission's is still ongoing, a spokesperson said Thursday. 

Defamation is the harming of a person's reputation by making a false statement about that person. If the defamation is written or broadcast, it is called libel. If the defamation is oral and there's no permanent record of it, it is called slander. 

About the Author

Kate Dubinski

Reporter/Editor

Kate Dubinski is a radio and digital reporter with CBC News in London, Ont. You can email her at kate.dubinski@cbc.ca.