Whitehorse student accused of sexual assault on Facebook files defamation lawsuit

A student at F.H. Collins Secondary School who was falsely accused of sexual assault in a Facebook post earlier this year has filed a defamation lawsuit against the author of the post.

School officials recommended student not attend class for his own safety after allegations, lawsuit says

The Yukon court building in Whitehorse. (Claudiane Samson/Radio-Canada)

A Whitehorse youth falsely accused on Facebook of sexually assaulting fellow students at F.H. Collins Secondary School has filed a defamation lawsuit against the author of the post. 

The youth, identified only by his initials, filed a statement of claim via his guardian to the Yukon Supreme Court on July 23. 

The lawsuit alleges Emily Blanchard, a F.H. Collins graduate, wrote and published a Facebook post in May that falsely claimed the Grade 9 student was "dangerous" and had sexually assaulted multiple girls at the school. 

The post resulted in the youth receiving threats of violence, the statement of claim says, to the point where school officials advised that he stop attending class for his own safety. 

The lawsuit has not been tested at trial. Lawyers for both Blanchard and the student declined requests for comment from the CBC. 

According to the lawsuit, the situation began in mid-April, when a classmate of the student told others at F.H. Collins that he had sexually assaulted her. 

The student "did not sexually assault his classmate or anyone else," the lawsuit continues, but, on May 6, Blanchard published a public Facebook post accusing him of committing multiple incidents of sexual harassment and assault. 

School officials phoned the student's mother the next day to tell her about the post, the statement of claim says. They also told her they were concerned for the student's safety, and recommended that he not attend class. 

The post was removed from Facebook on May 16. However, by then, it had received more than a hundred shares and roughly the same number of comments, the lawsuit says, a number of which threatened physical harm against the student. 

The Yukon RCMP were also involved, launching investigations into both the sexual assault allegations and the threats made against the student. Charges were not laid in either case. 

The lawsuit accuses Blanchard of being "reckless" and having "an improper motive" in making the Facebook post, alleging that she published it "with the intention to incite members of the public without taking reasonable care to determine the truth of the injurious statements." 

It also claims the post "injured [the student's] character and reputation and generated hatred, contempt, and ridicule towards him." 

The lawsuit is seeking a number of court orders, including one declaring that Blanchard defamed the student and that the Facebook post constitutes libel.

It's also asking for an order requiring Blanchard to provide a written apology to the student that she must also post on Facebook; an order granting a permanent injunction against Blanchard "preventing her from publishing allegations of misconduct regarding anyone under the age of 19 years old, by any means;" and an order granting the student damages for the alleged defamation.