A former B.C. Ministry of Child and Family Development manager found guilty of possessing child pornography while living in Prince George is now a defendant in a lawsuit brought by a former employee who claims to have been the victim of a sexually-related attack.
In a notice of claim, the plaintiff, identified solely by the initials A.B., says Edward Owen Berry was the associate director of programming at Covenant House Vancouver, a shelter for homeless youth where A.B. was a part-time front desk worker.
A.B. was asked to cover a shift for a co-worker at the Covenant House's Pender Street location on February 12, 2010, the same day as the Olympic torch parade.
After the torch passed by, Berry walked by the front desk window and scowled, "You should stand up when patriotic things happen," according to the notice.
Intimidated, alarmed and unnerved, A.B. retreated to the nearby photocopy room directly behind the front desk to perform administrative tasks.
A.B. saw Berry pass by in the hallway, presumably checking to see if anyone else was in the vicinity, then approached the physically smaller A.B. from behind, forced the plaintiff's head down onto the photocopier and for an estimated 20-30 seconds, "Berry vigorously and repeatedly thrust his pelvis against the plaintiff's buttocks, applying his full body weight and strength against the plaintiff, while hissing at the plaintiff again, 'we stand up up when something patriotic happens.'"
The act is described as "sexual battery" and as a consequence, A.B. has suffered from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, including flashbacks, nightmares and hypervigilance, depression and anxiety and has been abusing alcohol as a means of self-medicating, the claim states.
As for Berry, A.B. says that at all material times, he "suffered from major depression, alcohol use disorder and-or other psychiatric conditions secondary to his own sexual victimization as a child, resulting in a victim-to perpetrator 'cycle' of deviant and/or sexually violent behaviour."
As well as Berry, Covenant House Vancouver and the Ministry of Children and Family Development are named as defendants and A.B. alleges Covenant House and MCFD should have known Berry posed a risk of harm to staff and clientele.
"Sexual violence is defined by power. At all material times, the defendant Berry was in a position of physical power and hierarchical power by virtue of his position at Covenant House and the Ministry," A.B. says.
A.B. is seeking a range of damages for the alleged injuries.
The notice of claim was filed January 6 in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver. Responses to the claim have not yet been filed by the defendants and none of the allegations have been tested in court.
In April 2018, Berry was sentenced to eight months in jail followed by two years probation on child pornography charges related to a discovery of images on a tablet computer recovered from an April 2014 fire at a Prince George apartment building where he had been living.
In November 2015, Berry had also been charged with sexual offences related to a person under 16 but by January 2021, they had been dismissed by a judge in Fort St. John provincial court due to unreasonable delay.
A.B. makes note of both instances in the notice.
Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince George Citizen