Brian Johnston as a new recruit to the Dartmouth Police in 1980. — Photo: Halifax Archives

Though Brian Johnston had planned to officiate a church service this past Sunday at Zion Baptist Church, the Black church in Truro, those plans did not go forward. Rev. Dr. Cheryl Ann Beals of both the African United Baptist Association (AUBA) and the Canadian Baptists of Atlantic Canada (CBAC), officiated the teleconference service instead.

Though still officially employed as the minister at Zion Baptist, Johnston is said to have stepped aside from ministerial duties following a lawsuit filed against the city of Halifax where he is implicated.

The Examiner first reported about the lawsuit last week. The plaintiff, identified only as X.Y., accuses Johnston, a former municipal police officer for the city of Dartmouth and the Halifax Regional Municipality, of sexually assaulting her while on duty in 1992, when she was 13 years old. She claims Johnston later fathered her child in 2006, while he would have been both a detective for Halifax Regional Police and pastor at Zion Baptist.

The lawsuit also alleges that an RCMP officer, Wade Marriot, sexually assaulted X.Y. when she was 14 years old. The Examiner has yet to discover any present-day information on Marriott.

There have been no criminal charges laid against Johnston or Marriott, and the allegations against them have not been tested in court.

The day after The Examiner’s report, the Examiner spoke briefly to Johnston by phone, but he declined to comment. Later that day, Johnston called a meeting with Zion’s executive committee, during which he denied the allegations.

Zion is one of the member churches of the AUBA, which is under the umbrella of the CBAC. Though the AUBA does not have the power to terminate Johnston’s employment with Zion, board members instructed him to step down from any organizations and duties affiliated with the AUBA.

On Friday, the AUBA released a statement acknowledging it is aware of the lawsuit:

The leadership of the AUBA is grieved by these allegations for all persons impacted. We respect the legal process. The right of individuals to seek redress is an important part of our judicial system, as is the presumption of innocence.

As an Association, we feel a deep empathy for all involved and carry a fervent desire for truth and justice to prevail. God is a God of truth, love and justice.

We realize the journey towards healing, justice, and restoration is a long painful process, but not an impossible one. As an Association of churches, we are concerned for the well-being of everyone and offer our prayerful support and pastoral care. We desire the church to be a safe
place for everyone.

We are praying for the truth to be known and for the healing of all.

The CBAC has yet to release a statement.

Though Johnston indicated his intention to preach this past Sunday, following feedback and backlash from members of the church and members of Truro’s Black community, a decision was made prior to the weekend that he would not be preaching.

On Saturday, a zoom meeting was held between members of the church and Truro’s extended Black community to give updates about the situation and to discuss what happens next.

Though Johnston is still employed as the minister of Zion Baptist, Johnston is said to have stepped aside from official ministerial duties within the church. Zion’s board of management will meet with members of the church at a later date to determine Johnston’s employment with the church moving forward.

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A smiling Black man with a shaved head and wire rimmed glasses wears a headphone in a recording studio

Matthew Byard, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Matthew Byard writes news, profiles, and stories of the Black Nova Scotia community. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.

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