Lawyer (Margaret Best) to Ask Panel to Terminate Church Hearing (on Sexual Harassment Charge)

Article excerpt

The hearing into a complaint of sexual harassment against national church treasurer Rob Armstrong has been adjourned until Feb. 8 when the panel hearing the matter will likely have to rule on whether the case will proceed.

The complaint was made last summer by one of Mr. Armstrong's staff, Pauline Hedmann.

Ms. Hedmann's new lawyer, Margaret Best, said in a recent interview that she filed a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission on Jan. 12, the deadline under the province's human rights code. (Ontario has a statute of limitations of six months after the last alleged incident for human rights complaints.)

Ms. Best acknowledged the provision in the church's sexual harassment policy that says the church process stops if the complainant goes to an outside body. But she said she will argue before the panel that "the policy is wrong."

The provision, she said, "has the effect of a reprisal" if someone wishes "to preserve their rights" by filing a complaint.

Ms. Hedmann is "committed to the internal process," said Ms. Best, "that's her priority." But "she does want to preserve her rights under the code."

Mr. Armstrong's lawyer, Paul Stunt, said Ms. Best sent him a copy of the letter to the commission and he will be writing the church panel asking it to terminate the hearing.

"I will be challenging the jurisdiction of this panel to continue with the hearing," he said. …