Whitehorse Daily Star

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FORMER LEGISLATOR IN COURT – David Laxton is seen as an independent MLA in the leg islature in May 2016, shortly after abruptly resigning as the chamber’s Speaker and from the then-governing Yukon Party caucus.

Ex-Speaker stands accused of sexual assault

The woman said she was expecting to be interviewed for a job.

By Sidney Cohen on August 8, 2017

The woman said she was expecting to be interviewed for a job.

After listening to the former Speaker of the Yukon legislature talk about his personal life for nearly two hours, however, she began to wonder the real reason David Laxton had invited her to his office.

“I’m feeling like I was being interviewed not for a job,” she told territorial court Monday, during Laxton’s trial on a charge of sexual assault.

“I felt like it was leading to kind of, sexual innuendo.”

Judge John Faulkner is hearing the case.

In May 2016, Laxton suddenly resigned his role as Speaker and left the Yukon Party caucus to sit as an independent after being accused of sexual harassment.

It was alleged he had sexually harassed a woman at the Yukon government’s main administrative building during office hours in February of that year.

The complainant alleged that Laxton, then a Yukon Party MLA for Porter Creek Centre and Speaker of the Yukon Legislative Assembly, hugged and kissed her on the mouth twice following a meeting she believed was related to employment.

The physical contact, she said, was neither appropriate nor wanted.

Crown prosecutor Amy Porteous is arguing that Laxton’s behaviour constitutes sexual assault.

The Star is protecting the complainant’s identity even though there is no publication ban on her name.

On Day 1 of Laxton’s trial, the woman testified that she knew Laxton from her time as a server at Pandas, a restaurant in Whitehorse that closed about a decade ago.

Laxton had eaten there, and his partner, Leslie, frequented the restaurant.

The woman described her relationship with Laxton then as “friendly” and “casual.”

In cross-examination, Laxton’s defence lawyer, André Roothman, asked if their relationship was flirtatious.

“You had a thing for Mr. Laxton when you were serving him?” he asked.

“Did you give him extra attention when you served him?”

Roothman also asked whether the woman had social drinks with Laxton.

The woman denied flirting with Laxton and couldn’t recall drinking with him socially.

“Is it possible it’s a blur?” asked Roothman, pointing to alcohol’s effect on memory.

“Alcoholism was not a factor in not remembering,” the woman responded.

“Whatever meetings would have been in a social situation with lots of people. Nothing jumps out.”

The woman said she lives with alcoholism and no longer drinks.

She testified that she went to Laxton’s office at the Yukon government’s main administrative building in late February 2016 because Laxton had suggested that there was a job opportunity for her.

Earlier that month, she had quit her job as a cashier at the Independant Grocer in Whitehorse. Laxton had been in her check-out line the day she gave her notice, she recounted Monday.

As he approached her till, Laxton said, “How are you?” and the woman replied, candidly, that she had just quit her job, she said.

“He said, ‘I have something for you,’” and to call his office, the woman told the courtroom.

She was “excited” at the prospect of a new, government job, and the salary and benefits that would come along with that.

Roothman disputed the woman’s interpretation of the interaction with Laxton that led her to be in his office in late February, 2016.

He argued that Laxton did not indicate he had a job for the woman during their encounter at the grocery store.

Rather, said Roothman, Laxton told her to call him if there was anything he could do to help, and handed her his business card.

“Do you deny that?” he asked.

The woman said she couldn’t recall receiving a business card from Laxton.

“He said to me that he thought he had something for me. That’s what I heard,” she said.

“Would you consider that that was in your head?” asked Roothman.

The woman said no, because after Laxton spoke to her, she said, “Really?” and asked if he meant it.

Laxton’s lawyer pressed on: “Doesn’t it happen that things happen in your head and it’s not what happened?...

“You sometimes interpret things that are being said to you in your own way, how you perceive it was not what was said?”

Roothman went down this road a number of times during cross-examination. He suggested the woman misread interactions and distorted events in her mind.

He repeatedly described the woman’s memory as “murky” and once referred to her recollection of dates as “horrible.”

Roothman asked if the woman had filed a sexual harassment complaint with her union before quitting her job at the grocery store.

The woman said she did file a compliant with the union, but that it was related to language barriers with co-workers, and not about harassment.

She still works at the Independent because she could not find another job, she said.

Roothman also asked about a tenancy dispute with a former landlord that led the woman to being in arrears and evicted.

The woman said she wants to appeal the decision on the tenancy case, which made it to the Yukon Supreme Court.

Shortly after the encounter at the Independent, the woman made an appointment to see Laxton at his office at the government’s main administrative building.

“I dressed, I felt, in professional business attire for the occasion,” she said. “I brought a handbag and my résumé.”

The woman testified that she didn’t know what kind of job she may be offered before meeting Laxton, nor did she know what position he held in government.

In Laxton’s office, she said the Speaker talked at length about his life, his son, his partner, and drinking at different bars in town.

“It felt like a lot of personal things were being shared,” said the woman.

She said Laxton did not ask her about her three children, but she did tell him she had quit drinking.

Eventually, it became clear that this meeting wasn’t leading anywhere and the woman made a gesture to leave, she said.

At that point, Laxton invited Helen Fitzsimmons, director of administration, finance and systems, in the legislative assembly, into his office.

Fitzsimmons, who also oversees security of the legislative assembly and human resources, testified Monday morning as well.

She and the woman remembered each other from Pandas. Fitzsimmons used to visit the restaurant with an older woman.

The woman recalled the elderly woman when she met Fitzsimmons in Laxton’s office, saying she had made a “huge impression” on her.

The older woman would kiss the woman on the mouth at Pandas, and the woman would let it happen because she was elderly and “a sweet lady.”

The woman said she told Fitzsimmons this in front of Laxton. She added the kiss was “very unusual.”

The woman said normally, she would take offence to a kiss on the mouth from an acquaintance, but that “it was safe,” with the older woman.

Fitzsimmons said Laxton asked her to look at the woman’s résumé. She was under the impression the two were friends.

“I said the résumé needed some work; there was not enough information in it,” said Fitzsimmons.

“I gave her my business card and offered to help her with her résumé.”

There was no talk of kissing while she was in the room, said Fitzsimmons.

After Fitzsimmons left, the woman said she stood to leave, and Laxton gave her a bear hug and a kiss on the lips that lasted about three seconds.

“I was shocked,” she said.

“I remember looking at the door and wanting immediately to leave the room.... I didn’t go there to be touched.”

The woman said she had never had that kind of physical contact with Laxton previously.

After that, they walked to the lobby of the building and Laxton hugged and kissed her on the mouth again before they parted ways.

The woman wiped tears from her eyes as she recalled the kisses and hugs.

“I got to my car and I lost it,” she said.

Later in her cross-examination, the woman said she was sexually abused by her father when she was a child, and that she has been in counselling since she was 14 years old.

Her trauma compounds her aversion to being touched by other people, she said, and Laxton’s hugs and kisses triggered her.

“His actions made me feel like he was above it, above me, above any kind of standard respect,” she said.

Later, she noted, “We’re not in a society where kissing is a greeting.”

It came out in cross-examination that it was Fitzsimmons who alerted then-premier Darrell Pasloski and his chief of staff to the sexual harassment complaint against Laxton in the spring of 2016.

In May, Fitzsimmons said, the woman asked to meet with her.

“In person, she was crying and was very upset,” Fitzsimmons said of the meeting in which the woman told her about the kisses and hugs from Laxton.

Fitzsimmons testified that she had seen Laxton hug people at work, but never kiss anyone, and that such a move would have been unusual.

The woman said she waited about two months before talking about the incident because she was nervous about going to the RCMP.

“I feel there is internal harassment, sexually, in the RCMP,” she said. “They may not look at my situation as important enough.”

Eventually, she did go to police, she said, “because I think it’s criminal what he did and my fear of going to the RCMP had to be put away.”

David Laxton took the stand today (see coverage of his testimony in tomorrow’s edition).

Comments (12)

Up 0 Down 0

Perhaps on Aug 14, 2017 at 4:06 pm

Dave was possibly testing the waters in terms of starting a relationship with this woman. And what about the fact that he was using his position to help her find employment. I'd suggest that if he greets his female friends with a kiss on the lips without asking, he drop that habit quickly.

He is probably a great guy and most commenters really like him, but at arms length, and from someone who doesn't know him, it isn't as cut and dried as many of you seem to think it is.

Up 11 Down 2

Alan on Aug 12, 2017 at 1:40 pm

Am I in favour of Dave? Not if he did do these actions, and honestly, I hope he didn't. He's been a respectable, friendly man and I'd hate to see his career and family life ruined because of an accusation.

Am I in favour of what seems to be (oddly) Ms./Mrs. Mysterious? No, because I don't really believe her story. Something seems off about it. The whole not remembering thing details gives me a red flag as well.

Up 11 Down 21

mick on Aug 10, 2017 at 9:39 pm

His fate will be decided by the courts, not a bunch of 'arm chair' lawyers on the internet. He doesn't discount the accusations which clearly cross the legal line. Imagine yourself kissing random strangers on the corner of 2nd and Main and then imagine how that scenario would end.

Most alarming is that traditional YP supporters are running to his defence blindly because they think he's a 'nice guy'

Up 4 Down 14

Koko on Aug 10, 2017 at 8:53 pm

Sexually harassment at her work place was real. Management didn't want to deal with it. Inappropriate comments was made by a few managers.

Up 21 Down 5

Norm Kwiat on Aug 10, 2017 at 6:04 pm

I've known Dave for years and in my opinion he is being falsely accused by this unnamed person.

Up 36 Down 5

joe on Aug 9, 2017 at 4:34 pm

Curious about the "sexual harassment complaint with her union" and why she quit her job?

Up 57 Down 19

drum on Aug 8, 2017 at 9:50 pm

Nonsense - this is a witch hunt.
I have known David since he came to the Yukon - a great warm man. I do not believe that he intended any harm. His career has been destroyed as well as his good name - enough already. STOP THIS crap.

Up 54 Down 19

Yukon Watchdog on Aug 8, 2017 at 7:19 pm

I'm rooting for you, Dave, and I'm sorry this had to happen to you. What a way to ruin someone's life. I know you for your integrity, honesty and trustworthiness. And your complete devotion to Leslie. Be strong - don't let this kill your spirit.

Up 21 Down 54

sad all round on Aug 8, 2017 at 6:50 pm

Pretty sad all round. I can understand the woman feeling totally disrespected and like Mr. Laxton thought he was above her, when she went there dressed up for a job interview and carrying a resume, but no job was talked about. Instead, she was an unpaid listener for two hours, and was hugged and kissed for no particular reason other than Mr. Laxton felt like it. Her personal history with her father made it impossible for her to blow this off, and she's right not to blow it off. She was lied to and taken advantage of, and treated like a person who's not worth much and who can be disrespected.

Up 64 Down 7

Nile on Aug 8, 2017 at 6:16 pm

So it's ok for the Star to drag Dave through the mud but they won't publish the name of his accuser?

Up 57 Down 11

Miles Ocean on Aug 8, 2017 at 5:43 pm

Over the years I have experienced lots of inappropriate sexual comments from women in the office and had my backside pinched with very suggestive sexual remarks.
My take on this is that it was awkward but not significant enough for a charge or court proceeding. What comes next, a community service penalty of 8-10 hours.

Give this man a break and drop it.

Up 46 Down 8

Just Sayin' on Aug 8, 2017 at 4:48 pm

First, I would like to point out I am a female.
Second, the lobby would have had other people around who would have seen this alleged event. Where are they?

Third, she said, he said. Unfortunately for the male accused, society already has made their assumptions. Powerful Male, picking on a female who had no means to take care of her three kids and used his power to lure her in with a job. It comes down to he said, she said and the law tends to favor women and it is proven time and time again. For example, in family courts, mothers tend to get preliminary custody of children, because of maternal instincts, by that notion male homosexuals should not be allowed children because they have no maternal instinct. (Please note, I am all for people having children regardless of one’s gender or sexual orientation, as long as the parent is a fit parent).
This continually lopsidedness in our society needs to stop. LOOK AT THE FACTS, WEIGH THE EVIDENCE and then decided whether the individual is guilty or not.

Mr. Laxton, I hope things go well for you and if you committed the offence you do the time, if you did not, hopefully the justice system finds you not guilty.

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