Politics

Former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell, federal government face civil suit over sexual harassment allegations

A Dutch-Canadian woman formerly employed by the High Commission of Canada in London is suing former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell and the federal government over incidents alleged to have taken place in 2013, when Campbell was Canada's high commissioner to the U.K.

Complainant suing Campbell and federal government over two alleged incidents at the Canadian High Commission

Former Canadian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom Gordon Campbell speaks at his home with the CBC's Stu Mills about sexual harassment allegations. (Sarah Sears/CBC News)

A Dutch-Canadian woman formerly employed by the High Commission of Canada in London is suing former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell and the federal government over two alleged acts of unwanted touching by Campbell said to have taken place when he was Canada's high commissioner to the U.K.

Judith Prins came to a settlement agreement in 2014 over the two alleged incidents. The new claim says that settlement should be overturned.

Details of a civil suit filed in the Central London County Court and recently obtained by CBC News give a clearer picture of Prins' allegations.

Prins, who lives in England and was an employee of the Canadian High Commission in 2013, named Campbell and the Government of Canada as defendants in her claim. She is seeking damages for lost income and for stress and anxiety.

Prins' allegations have not been tested in court and CBC cannot independently verify her claims.

Prins alleges in her lawsuit that when she was hired, her manager informed her "that she should be careful around (Campbell)" — which she claims led her to believe Campbell "had a pre-disposition to sexually harass women."

The harassment allegations laid out in Prins' statement of claim say that in July of 2013, Campbell "came up behind [Prins] and started rubbing her shoulders." It also alleges that on Sept. 9, 2013, as Prins "was walking up a flight of stairs ... [she] felt [Campbell] touch her bottom and stroke the right side of her behind."

Prins' statement of claim also says her concerns were not addressed during her term of employment. The court documents reveal a mediation session was arranged in March 2014, after Prins' employment at the High Commission had ended.

'An unconscionable bargain'

The new civil claim, originally filed with British courts in February, says Prins was unable to afford a lawyer for that 2014 meeting, which ended with a settlement.

The terms of that settlement have not been made public, but her new statement of claim suggests "[Prins] had no alternative … other than to sign the agreement." As part of the civil claim, her lawyer now argues the settlement is void "on the grounds of economic duress and/or as an unconscionable bargain."

CBC News spoke briefly with Prins, who declined an interview, citing the legal proceedings.

"This has been settled once before, more than five years ago now," Campbell told CBC News in a brief interview at his Ottawa home. "It was dealt with fully."

Campbell said he would not discuss Prins' allegations with CBC News.

Watch | Former B.C. premier addresses allegations of sexual harassment in civil suit:

Former B.C. premier accused of sexual harassment in civil suit

8 months ago
1:25
Gordon Campbell says the 2013 allegations were investigated and dealt with at the time. Campbell and the federal government are defendants in the suit, alleging two incidents of unwanted touching when he was High Commissioner to the U.K. 1:25

Campbell, who served as premier of British Columbia for a decade starting in 2001, was appointed High Commissioner to the United Kingdom by then-prime minister Stephen Harper in 2011. During his tenure in the high-ranking diplomatic role, he hosted the Queen and other high-ranking royals at Canada House and oversaw official visits by prime ministers Harper and Justin Trudeau. After a one-year extension on his term, Campbell returned to Canada in 2016.

"There's a full, independent review that was carried out of these matters, as they should be, and that's where it stands," Campbell told CBC News.

Campbell has not responded formally to the court claim.

'Distress and anxiety'

The claim states Prins is seeking "less than 25,000" pounds (which is approximately $43,000 Cdn) for two years of lost wages and compensation for "loss, damage, distress and anxiety." Her claim alleges she suffers from migraines, has had trouble sleeping and has suffered from severe social anxiety.

The Government of Canada is named as the second defendant in Prins' claim, which argues that it's "vicariously liable for the actions of [Campbell]."

Allegations against Campbell were first reported by Britain's Daily Telegraph in January, 2019, after a woman contacted London's Metropolitan Police "and alleged she had been sexually assaulted at an address in Grosvenor Square" — the location of the Canadian High Commission at the time of the complaint.

Gordon Campbell, seen here welcoming Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall to Canada House in May 2016, was high commissioner to the United Kingdom until 2016. (Associated Press)

Scotland Yard said at the time that police were investigating an alleged 2013 incident but had made no arrests. The Metropolitan Police did not publicly identify any persons of interest in their investigation. Prins told the paper at the time that she made the complaint in part because of the #MeToo movement fighting sexual harassment and exploitation.

Prins would not comment on the status of that complaint when asked about it Wednesday by CBC News.

After his diplomatic posting, Campbell took on consulting jobs in Canada — including a contract with Premier Doug Ford's government in Ontario in July 2018 to lead a commission looking into the previous provincial Liberal government's spending and accounting practices. He also had a part-time job with the public relations firm Edelman — an arrangement that was put on hold when the allegations were reported by The Telegraph in 2019.

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