A concrete building is seen on a grey day. The sign says "The Law Courts, Nova Scotia Court of Appeal, Supreme Court of Nova Scotia." There are three flags — two Nova Scotian and one Canadian, in the centre.
The Law Courts in Halifax in February 2020. Photo: Zane Woodford

The municipality denies that a former Halifax Regional Police officer sexually assaulted a teenaged girl in the early 1990s, but admits the same person later complained to police about the officer fathering her child.

As the Halifax Examiner reported in January, a plaintiff using the pseudonym X.Y. is suing the municipality and the federal government, alleging she was sexually assaulted by two police officers as a girl in the 1990s.

One of those two was RCMP officer Wayde Marriott. In May, the federal government filed notice of defence denying the claims against him, and further asserting that if he did sexually assault X.Y., “Marriott was acting outside the scope of his duties as an employed officer of the RCMP and was acting as a private citizen.”

The second officer named in the case was Const. Brian Johnston, formerly of Dartmouth Police and then Halifax Regional Police. After the Examiner’s reporting, Johnston stepped aside from his ministerial duties as a preacher at Zion Baptist Church in Truro.

An older photo of a Black man wearing black rimmed glasses and wearing a police uniform.
Brian Johnston as a new recruit to the Dartmouth Police in 1980. — Photo: Halifax Archives

X.Y.’s notice of action accuses Johnston of first assaulting her when she was a 13-year-old girl living in Sullivan House, a provincial “safe house” for kids 12 or older “actively involved in sexual exploitation.” The first incident is alleged to have happened in a van while X.Y. was out looking for a fellow resident who’d gone missing.

“Once the Plaintiff was seated in the van, Cst. Johnston forced the Plaintiff to perform oral sex on him, threatening her arrest and subsequent eviction from Sullivan House if she did not comply. Fearing that Cst. Johnston would follow through with his threats, the Plaintiff complied with his demands and performed oral sex on him,” X.Y.’s lawyer, Michael Dull, wrote in the notice of action.

X.Y. alleges Johnston later impregnated her, in 2006:

The Plaintiff’s conception with her daughter occurred while Cst. Johnston was on duty. The pregnancy was a direct result of the ongoing relationship established by Cst. Johnston with the Plaintiff when she was approximately thirteen years old.

Cst. Johnston was unhappy with the Plaintiff’s pregnancy and instructed her to either get an abortion or go through with the pregnancy and give the baby up for adoption once it was born.

The Plaintiff decided to keep the baby. Cst. Johnston instructed her not to identify him as the father on any documents and contacted government agencies to explain it was in the best interests of the mother and child that the father not be identified on any documentation.

HRM lawyer Karen MacDonald filed a notice of defence in the case in Nova Scotia Supreme Court on Tuesday, denying X.Y.’s allegations.

“If Johnston engaged in the actions alleged in […] the Statement of Claim (which is not admitted), HRM states that at all material times Johnston was not acting in the performance of his duties and HRM is not liable for Johnston’s actions,” MacDonald wrote.

MacDonald wrote that X.Y. complained to HRP in November 2009, and “gave an in-person statement to investigators in Professional Standards.”

“The Plaintiff told HR Professional Standards about contact with Johnston, including that: (a) she and Johnston had a sexual relationship that began in December 2005, (b) she became pregnant by Johnston and had a child in 2006, and (c) Johnston refused to officially acknowledge his paternity of the child and refused to pay child support,” MacDonald wrote.

According to MacDonald, X.Y. didn’t tell police about the allegations from when she was at Sullivan House.

“Officers with HR Professional Standards informed the Plaintiff that she could make a formal complaint under the Police Act. The Plaintiff declined to sign the paperwork to initiate a Police Act complaint and informed the officers that she would instead pursue the matter through Family Court,” MacDonald wrote.

“The Plaintiff was informed in writing in or about late November 2009 that the HRP investigation file regarding her complaint against Johnston would be closed unless she contacted the investigating officer again. The Plaintiff made no further contact with the HRP investigating officer.”

Johnston retired soon after, in early 2010.

“HRM states that the facts as pleaded in the Plaintiff’s Statement of Claim are insufficient to sustain a cause of action for misfeasance in public office, intimidation, intentional infliction of mental suffering, breach of fiduciary duty, or negligence,” MacDonald wrote.

“HRM denies that it is vicariously liable to the Plaintiff for the alleged acts or omissions of Johnston.

“Further, HRM states that if the actions of Johnston constituted misfeasance in public office, intimidation, intentional infliction of mental suffering, breach of fiduciary duty, negligence, battery or sexual battery, which is not admitted but denied, at all material times Johnston was acting outside the scope of his duties as an employee of HRP or Dartmouth Police Services.”

Except for X.Y.’s allegation of sexual battery, MacDonald argues the claims “are outside the applicable limitation period and are therefore barred.”

“As to the whole of the Statement of Claim, HRM denies that the Plaintiff suffered any injury, loss or damage as a result of any negligence or other wrongdoing on the part of HRM, its agents or employees, and puts the Plaintiff to the strict proof to the contrary,” MacDonald wrote.

“HRM states that any injury, condition, loss or damage claimed by the Plaintiff (which is not admitted but denied) was caused or contributed to by other sources or events, including but not limited to the Plaintiff’s pre-existing health history.”

MacDonald asked the court to dismiss X.Y.’s claim with costs.

The Examiner will continue to cover this case. If you have any information about Johnston or Marriott, please contact this reporter at the email address listed below.

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Zane Woodford is the Halifax Examiner’s municipal reporter. He covers Halifax City Hall and contributes to our ongoing PRICED OUT housing series. Twitter @zwoodford

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