About the charges

Rev. Dr. Brent Hawkes CM is facing two charges - gross indecency and indecent assault on a male.

Both of the crimes have since been repealed by Parliament. Other pages of this website discuss the homophobic history of these crimes.

The charges against are contained in laws that existed in 1974 and 1975:

Indecent Assault on a Male
156. Every male person who assaults another person with intent to commit buggery or who indecently assaults another male person is guilty of an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for ten years and to be whipped.

Gross indecency
157. Every one who commits an act of gross indecency with another person is guilty of an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for five years.

158. (1) Sections 155 and 157 do not apply to any act committed in private between
        (a) a husband and his wife, or
        (b) any two persons, each of whom is twenty-one years or more of age,
both of whom consent to the commission of the act.   

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1),
 (a) an act shall be deemed not to have been committed in private if it is committed in a public place, or if more than two persons take part or are present; and
 (b) a person shall be deemed not to consent to the commission of an act
       (i) if the consent is extorted by force, threats or fear of bodily harm or is obtained by false and fraudulent misrepresentations as to the nature and quality of the act, or
       (ii) if that person is, and the other party to the commission of the act knows or has good reason to believe that that person is feeble-minded, insane, or an idiot or imbecile.

Buggery was a pejorative term used at the time to refer to anal intercourse.

Police and prosecutors have said very little publicly about the charges. We understand that they have followed the law and disclosed details regarding their investigation to Brent’s lawyers.
The information in this section is based on publicly available information about the case. We have tried to be as accurate as possible.

To start with, there is one complainant in Brent’s case. As is usual in this type of case, there is a publication ban to protect his identity.   This means, for example, that no one can publish the complainant’s name in the media and online, or publish personal information that would identify him. The incident or incidents giving rise to the charges are said to have occurred in Nova Scotia, possibly at or near Greenwood, sometime between 1974 and 1975. During that period of time, the complainant was considered to be a “minor”.  The laws were a lot different back then. “Minor” meant anyone under 21, in connection with having illegal gay sex.

Brent lived in Nova Scotia during the time frame giving rise to the allegations, namely 1974-1975. When he left Nova Scotia for Toronto in 1976, Brent was 26 years old and unemployed.

Although the complainant in this case is no longer a “minor”, it is still commonplace to issue a ban on publishing the complainant’s identity in such cases.  That was done in this situation.  There is rarely a ban on identifying an accused person, and there is no ban on identifying Brent in this case. This prosecution was highly publicized. Not all of the reports were accurate.

The complainant had a right to complain. The police did not have an obligation to lay charges, but they chose to do so. The justice of the peace did not have to accept those charges, but chose to do so.
Once the charges were laid, it was up to the Crown Attorney to decide whether to proceed to trial. Sometimes the Crown Attorney is consulted by the police prior to laying charges, but the decision about laying charges is made by the police. In Brent’s case, it is the RCMP acting as the provincial police force in Nova Scotia who have laid the charges. In Brent’s case, it is the Crown Attorney in Kentville, Nova Scotia, a local official of the Director of Public Prosecutions, who is handling the prosecution.

The Crown Attorney has the absolute right to withdraw or stay the charges at any time, but has chosen to proceed so far. That right is subject to the right of the Director of Public Prosecutions or the provincial Attorney General to issue directions regarding that prosecution, including directing the withdrawal of the charges. 

On April 11, 2016, the charges were brought to court, and Brent pleaded not guilty to both charges. A trial date of November 14, 2016 (subject to other case scheduling) was established and the case will be heard by a provincial court judge in Kentville, Nova Scotia.

We believe that this prosecution is not in the public interest and should be halted as soon as possible.