By Barb Nahwegahbow
TORONTO—John Fox is a man with a mission. He wants to make sure that someone is held accountable for the sexual assault of his daughter, the late Cheyenne Fox. The assault took place in August 2012 in the backyard of Anduhyaun, a shelter for Indigenous women in Toronto. Cheyenne was a resident there, trying to pull her life together in preparation for returning to school to work in the beauty industry, said Fox.
The assault was captured on Anduhyaun’s security cameras. “No one came to her aid,” said Fox, a citizen of Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve on Manitoulin Island. “What were the staff doing while my daughter was being attacked?”
On behalf of his daughter’s estate, Fox has filed a civil suit against Anduyhaun.
Fox’s lawyer, John Annen, said, “The family is seeking vindication for what happened to her, that she didn’t consent to the sexual assault, that the shelter was partly responsible because they recklessly mismanaged the property and created the situation of unsafety. It’s not fair what happened to her and somebody needs to be held accountable.”
The family is also seeking half a million dollars in compensation, payable to the estate of the deceased. “The beneficiary of the estate is the son of the deceased,” said Anne. Cheyenne Fox died in April 2013 after a fall from a 24 floor condo, a death the Ontario Coroner ruled “undetermined”.
A preliminary hearing took place on July 11, 2016, at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Osgoode Hall Court in downtown Toronto. “This is a very preliminary hearing,” said Fox’s lawyer, John Annen. “The only issue before the Court today is not the merits of the case; the shelter is contesting that the limitation period has expired.”
There is a new piece of legislation that’s never been before the courts, said Annen.
“It was enacted in March 2016, the Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan that deals with extending the rights that victims and families of victims have against perpetrators of sexual violence. The alleged perpetrator of the assault is certainly covered by this new legislation,” he said. “But the shelter says, ‘we didn’t commit the act of sexual assault and therefore, this new act and its extension of there being no limitation period doesn’t apply to us’.”
The new legislation recognizes the difficulty that victims of sexual assault have in coming forward. If it takes the victims 50 years to summon up the courage to confront their perpetrator, “the legislation says you’re good to go,” said Annen.
The lawyer for Anduhyaun, Lisa Hamilton, was chastised by Judge Lederer for inadequate preparation. Annen said Hamilton works for Anduhyaun’s insurance company and that this is standard practice. “The shelter, they have insurance just like everyone else and when something bad happens, they call their insurance company. I think that the shelter probably has principles different than what the insurance defense lawyers have,” said Annen. “Obviously the defense team is going to take any technical approach they can to not pay,” he continued.
John Fox has also filed a civil suit against the alleged perpetrator. Legal counsel for the alleged perpetrator was also in Court, but remained silent.
Fox’s other concern is that shelters are being targeted by human trafficking rings. Aboriginal women are specifically targeted, he said. Cheyenne, he said, was recruited into prostitution, but he’s not sure where this occurred.
“Anduhyaun didn’t offer any counselling to my daughter after she was assaulted,” said Fox. “We want the shelter and any other shelter where this might happen to be accountable. Also, if the clients were utilizing their services, then they should get the services they need like counselling services, like psychiatric services. Those are the things we’re trying to advocate for.”
Judge Lederer adjourned the hearing until July 28, 2016.