THE PLOT THICKENS as Steven Galloway’s war drags on.
The award-winning Kamloops author never imagined that his career would become mired in a warzone similar to the one portrayed in his award-winning novel.
Galloway attended the University College of the Cariboo in the 1990s before it became Thompson Rivers University.
He is best known for his 2008 novel The Cellist of Sarajevo which sold 700,000 copies, was translated into twenty languages, and had film options. His prospects soared and he became chair of the creative writing program at the University of British Columbia in 2015.
In Galloway’s novel, set in the 1990s Siege of Sarajevo, a cellist watches as a shell falls and kills people waiting in a bread line. To commemorate the dead, the cellist is determined to play an Adagio in the crater created by the blast while avoiding sniper fire.
Now under siege, Galloway grimly watches as friends and foes exchange shots.
Galloway was terminated in 2016 over breach of trust and misconduct. A former student of his known as A.B. claims that Galloway had abusive sexual relations with her from 2011 to 2013. He says the relations were consensual.
In 2018, an arbitrator ruled that UBC had harmed Galloway’s reputation and the author was awarded $167,000.
Now Galloway sees some light from the pit dug by the explosive allegations. The B.C. Supreme Court recently ruled that a lawsuit he launched can proceed.
The plot of Galloway’s rise and fall has twists and turns worthy of a novel.
At first, Galloway had reason for hope that A.B.’s charges would prove unsubstantiated. In 2015, UBC hired retired B.C. judge Mary Ellen Boyd to investigate the matter. She found that it was not likely that Galloway committed sexual assault or assault (Globe and Mail Dec. 3 2021)
More support came for Galloway in the form of a letter from some of Canada’s most celebrated writers, including Margaret Atwood. In 2016, she wrote:
“My position is that the UBC process was flawed and failed both sides, and the rest of my position is that the model of the Salem Witchcraft Trials is not a good one (Vancouver Sun Nov. 17 2016).”
The letter sparked an online backlash from former students who said the letter was an attempt to silence and intimidate them.
Andrea Bennett, a former student who said she witnessed her friend being slapped by Galloway but did not file a complaint, said she was disappointed by the letter (Maclean’s Nov. 16, 2016).
That prompted some of the writers to withdraw their names from the letter. Yann Martel, author of the Life of Pi, said:
“I did NOT sign the letter to defend an empowered white male. I did NOT sign it to silence young women, or anyone else (Maclean’s Nov. 16, 2016).”
Galloway shot back with a defamation suit against A.B. and 20 of her supporters.
A.B. and others fired back with a request to throw out the defamation suit in order to protect their freedom of expression. Under B.C. law, a legal action can be shut down if a court deems it to be a strategic attempt to silence and intimidate others, called anti-SLAPP law.
In a win for Galloway, Justice Elaine Adair firmly rejected the anti-SLAPP arguments. Galloway’s defamation suit can now proceed. Justice Elaine Adair said that there have to be consequences for “publishing on Twitter,” and added:
“It is difficult to see how something so extreme and potentially reckless [as A.B.’s] would be in the public interest (Globe and Mail Dec. 3 2021).”
David Charbonneau is a retired TRU electronics instructor who hosts a blog at http://www.eyeviewkamloops.wordpress.com.