Defamation lawsuit over Facebook post accusing Whitehorse student of sexual assault settled

·2 min read
The courthouse in Whitehorse as seen from Second Avenue. A defamation lawsuit over a Facebook post accusing a student at F.H. Collins Secondary School of sexual assault has been settled. (Jackie Hong/CBC - image credit)
The courthouse in Whitehorse as seen from Second Avenue. A defamation lawsuit over a Facebook post accusing a student at F.H. Collins Secondary School of sexual assault has been settled. (Jackie Hong/CBC - image credit)

A defamation lawsuit over sexual assault allegations levelled against an F. H. Collins Secondary School student on Facebook has been settled before going to trial, with the poster to issue a public apology.

The family of the former Grade 9 student, who's only identified by his initials in legal documents, sued Emily Blanchard last year after she made a Facebook post alleging the student was "dangerous" and had been sexually assaulting and harassing girls at the school.

The post resulted in the student being threatened, the statement of claim said, to the point where school officials advised him not to attend class anymore for his own safety.

Yukon RCMP investigated both the sexual assault allegations and the threats against the student but closed both cases without laying charges.

The defamation case had been set to go to trial in January; however, lawyers for both parties were able to reach a settlement last week.

Among the terms of the settlement are Blanchard issuing a written apology.

"I sincerely and unreservedly apologize for wrongly accusing and posting false information about [the student]," the apology, a copy of which Blanchard's lawyer shared with the CBC, reads in part.

"When I wrote that post, I had no evidence of the truth of the comments I made about [the student] and the information in those comments has not been verified. I should never have made the post, it was untrue and I retract it completely."

Student now studying outside of the territory

Blanchard, in the apology, also said she never intended to cause harm to the student but acknowledged her post resulted in damage "to a person I have never met and do not know."

"I accept my mistake and promise to never again make a public post about a youth in such a way," the apology says.

Blanchard's lawyer did not respond to a request for further comment.

Lawyer James Tucker, who represented the student and his family, said in an interview that his clients were "pleased" the case was settled and thankful to Blanchard for her apology.

He added that he hoped the situation would serve as a reminder that posts on social media can have serious impacts, noting that the student is now attending school outside of the territory due to the harassment and bullying he was facing in Whitehorse.

"People should be cautious about what they write, generally, because they can harm people without even realizing it," Tucker said. "They can do incredible harm to people."