UBC Okanagan ordered to pay $50,000 in sexual assault discrimination case

VANCOUVER — University of British Columbia Okanagan has been ordered to pay a former student $50,000 for discriminating against her based on her sex and disability in the way it handled her allegation of sexual assault by another student.

The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal says the university's method of investigating non-academic misconduct exacerbated Stephanie Hale's PTSD and caused her harm to the point that she couldn't participate in the process.

The tribunal says that though the university had a high-level understanding of sexual violence and a commitment to support survivors, its response didn't result in a reasonable investigation process or restore a "discrimination-free learning environment."

The 132-page decision handed down late last month says the discrimination was very serious, involving a power imbalance and Hale's "unique vulnerability."

The university has also been ordered to pay Hale $50,000 as compensation, nearly $7,000 in lost wages and about $8,000 in expenses.

Hale, whose mental disability is said in the ruling to stem from her PTSD, has alleged she was assaulted in 2013, but the other student denied the allegations and said what happened was consensual.

UBC's then-president Santa Ono dismissed Hale’s complaint against the other student in 2017, citing a lack of evidence.

UBC lawyers went to court in 2019 and tried unsuccessfully to quash the tribunal's decision to hear the case.

The Canadian Press does not typically identify complainants in cases of sexual assault, but Hale has previously said she wants her name used.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 8, 2023

The Canadian Press