Montra006c, Tuesday, June 1, 2004 - Charged with sexually assaulting a minor, an educator employed by the Batshaw Youth and Family Centres has just been acquitted on all counts. Judge Elisabeth Corte of the Court of Qub0065c categorically rejected the five charges laid against Alvin Gibbs. This decision was handed down seven months after a labour arbitrator also concluded the educator was innocent.
For Alvin Gibbs, this marks the end of a long nightmare, lasting almost four years. Following the announcement of the verdict, Gibbs, who has had his life turned upside down and his reputation tarnished, said, Truth always prevails. He now hopes the unequivocal Court decision will allow him to return to his job, peace of mind and a normal life.
The educator has gone through hell, worthy of a Kafka novel. In October 2000, he was suspended by his employer and then fired in March 2001. Management of the Batshaw Youth and Family Centres, where the educator worked, alleged he had engaged in sexual activities with youth in his care. Then in September 2001, criminal charges were laid against Gibbs. Supported by the members of his local union, affiliated with the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE-FTQ), he proceeded to counter the charges against him, point by point.
In light of the arbitrators ruling and todays decision, the youth who made the accusations made a false statement to the police. Presenting himself as a victim of abuse, he hoped to get compensation from the Centre. Testimony before the arbitrator (p. 13 of the ruling) showed, He wanted to profit from the system and make money by suing the Centre. To him, it was just a big game. The youth later admitted his first statements to the police were unfounded.
Arbitrator orders Mr. Gibbs be returned to his job
Following the educators dismissal, the matter was referred to arbitration. In November 2003, Me Jean-Marie Lavoie rejected all the charges against the educator. In a long, 103-page decision, after 23 days of hearing conducted over a two-year period, the arbitrator ordered the immediate return of the employee to his duties.
The employer, however, contested the arbitrators decision. A judicial review was set for September. It is not yet known, in view of Judge Cortes decision, whether the employer will continue with the review. In spite of two judgements in his favour, the educator has still not returned to his job.
An April 1 with nothing funny about it
As though the false accusations and loss of employment were not enough, Alvin Gibbs was also subjected to an appalling journalistic error. On April 1, 2003, a Montra006c daily published the photo of the victim of a hold-up in a Caisse populaire, a man sentenced to spending the rest of his life in a wheelchair, and his aggressor. But, rather than the photo of the presumed guilty party, it was Alvin Gibbs face which appeared.
For grievance officer George Gawell and union representative Gerry Joyce, this story shows that people who work as educators or in similar jobs are vulnerable to unfounded accusations. This is an eloquent illustration of the importance we must assign to the presumption of innocence in our society, said Joyce.
This press release and other information are posted on the Internet at scfp.qc.ca
A translation of the decision is available at http://www.scfp.qc.ca/espace/documents/sentencegibbs040601/
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SOURCE: SYNDICAT DES FONCTIONNAIRES MUNICIPAUX DE MONTRAL (SFMM)