|Mayor John Tory (left) and Hawkes (right) during Toronto police’s Pride|
reception on June 22, 2016
First was the nature of the charges. Stemming from an alleged incident in the 1970s when Hawkes was a high school teacher in Nova Scotia, he was charged with gross indecency and indecent assault, two provisions of the Criminal Code that were removed long ago. The Crown argues that the two counts amount to the modern day crime of sexual assault. Hawkes’ defenders believe they’re homophobic.
But the reaction was coloured even more by who Hawkes is. By his own account, he is one of the most well-known and well-respected religious leaders in the country. He’s a recipient of the Order of Canada. The mythology that’s developed around him — going on a hunger strike after the bathhouse raids, conducting the first recognized same-sex marriage in a bulletproof vest, eulogizing Jack Layton at his funeral — has cemented itself in Toronto’s imagination.
So when the charges were brought against Hawkes, the reaction felt familiar to anyone who has followed the many beloved public figures who have been accused of sexual assault in the past few years.
Several prominent community members and politicians rallied to his defence. Craig Scott said unequivocally that he believes Hawkes is innocent. Bob Rae and Olivia Chow expressed their support for their friend. Bill Blair, Paula Fletcher and Peter Tabuns all attended the first service after the charges became public. Doug Elliott, Kim Vance, Al McNutt and Rachel Lauren Clarke started the Brent Hawkes Support Fund to help fund legal costs. (more...)