Whitehorse Daily Star

Image title

Photo by Whitehorse Star

JUDGE TO CONSIDER EVIDENCE – David Laxton is seen on the floor of the legislature on Oct. 22, 2015, when he was still the Yukon Party MLA for Porter Creek Centre and the chamber’s Speaker. He is scheduled to learn his legal fate on Oct. 2.

‘My life fell apart’ after complaint: ex-MLA

David Laxton doesn’t dispute that he hugged and kissed a woman twice on the lips when she met with him at the Yukon government administrative building in February 2016.

By Emily Blake on August 9, 2017

David Laxton doesn’t dispute that he hugged and kissed a woman twice on the lips when she met with him at the Yukon government administrative building in February 2016.

But the former Speaker of the Yukon legislature denies that the incident was sexual, and says that’s just how he greets women he is friendly with.

That’s what Yukon territorial court heard Tuesday morning as Laxton testified in his own defence against one charge of sexual assault.

But on Monday, the woman, who the Star is not identifying though there is no publication ban, testified she was “shocked” when Laxton gave her a bear hug and a brief peck on the lips.

She said the physical contact was unwanted and inappropriate.

Judge John Faulkner is expected to make a decision in the case on the afternoon of Oct. 2, one day before the fall sitting of the Yukon legislature is set to commence.

He will determine whether Laxton’s actions constitute sexual assault under the law.

Laxton, now a 61-year-old retiree, testified he first met the woman around 2001, when she was a waitress at Pandas, a restaurant downtown where he often went for lunch.

They also frequented some of the same bars. He said they developed a casual friendship where they would flirt back and forth when they saw one another.

Pandas closed in 2006, and Laxton said as he became involved in politics, they saw each other less and less.

Over the past decade, the pair have had little contact other than running into one another around Whitehorse.

“I thought our friendship was still in existence up until May 9, when it came to a shuddering halt and my life fell apart,” Laxton testified. He was referencing a sexual harassment complaint that was made following their meeting.

In May 2016, Laxton abruptly stepped down from his position as Speaker and left the Yukon Party caucus to sit as an independent.

“I was bullied into it,” he testified Tuesday. “In fact, I was threatened.”

In February 2016, Laxton ran into the woman when he was paying for groceries at her till at the Independent Grocer.

“I was tickled to see her; it had been a while,” he testified.

The woman told him she was quitting her job because she didn’t like how the union was handling a sexual harassment complaint.

Laxton said he told her, “If you think there’s anything I can do to help you, here’s my card, or come and see me,” and gave her his business card.

But the woman testified that he said, “I have something for you.” She believed he was referencing an available government job.

Sometime later, she scheduled an appointment with Laxton at his office at the main administrative building on Second Ave.

Laxton testified that he wasn’t sure what the woman wanted to meet about.

He said when she arrived at his office, she began asking questions about his job as a Yukon Party MLA and Speaker.

People often visited him just to talk, he said, and few people are knowledgeable about the role of the Speaker.

The woman testified Monday that she found it odd that Laxton spoke about his personal life for nearly two hours, and began questioning why he had invited her to contact him.

Laxton showed the woman the legislature, spoke about his wife, Leslie, and asked about her life and kids.

She told him that she had stopped drinking and was studying criminology.

The conversation eventually turned to employment.

Laxton invited Helen Fitzimmons, the director of administration, finance and systems for the legislative assembly, into his office to look at the woman’s résumé. He went on his computer to look up the government jobs website.

Laxton said the woman was not interested in an available position that he suggested. And Fitzsimmons offered help with her résumé, as it did not have enough information.

The office door was partially closed, and Laxton and the woman were alone when the meeting ended.

Laxton said he told the woman he was happy with the changes she had made in her life and gave her a hug and a quick peck on the lips for “a fraction of a second.”

The pair left the office and walked down a hallway together. When they reached the public foyer, Laxton gave the woman a second hug and kiss on the mouth.

He testified that on previous occasions, he has kissed his wife and close friend Bonita Tarr in the workplace.

Tarr testified about Laxton’s affectionate nature. She noted that he always hugs and kisses female friends on the lips.

She said he will also hug men, but added she would find it odd if he kissed them.

Laxton’s long-time friend Marjorie Eschak also testified by phone.

She said she was disappointed by the allegations against him.

“When you see Dave, you expect a hug and a kiss,” Eschak said.

On Monday, the complainant testified that there was never any physical contact between her and Laxton prior to their meeting.

She said the unwanted hug and kiss triggered trauma from her having been sexually abused by her father when she was a child.

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

Defence attorney André Roothman argued that Laxton should be acquitted of the charge.

To infer sexual gratification from the greeting, Roothman said, would “really be stretching it.”

He noted that the woman waited several months before reporting the incident.

She made no effort to object or get away from Laxton after the first time he hugged and kissed her, Roothman added.

But Crown prosecutor Amy Porteous argued that the woman was in shock.

Porteous said it was logical for her to stay with Laxton, as she didn’t know her way around the administrative building.

She added that many people don’t report sexual assaults immediately after they happen.

Porteous noted that while not all hugs and kisses are sexual, the pair had barely seen each other in 10 years, and the physical contact came after a bizarre meeting where personal information was shared.

Porteous added that the physical contact was inappropriate in the workplace after discussing employment.

“The legislative assembly is not the set of Mad Men.”

As well, Porteous noted that all people have the right not to be kissed if they don’t want to be.

“Assuming women are walking around in a perpetual state of consent is offensive and inaccurate under the law,” Porteous said.

She added, “The fact that he may walk around kissing women doesn’t make it any less assaulting.”

After spending the second half of 2016 sitting as an independent MLA, Laxton opted not to seek to retain his Porter Creek Centre seat in last November’s territorial election.

Comments (11)

Up 4 Down 3

Bandit on Aug 14, 2017 at 12:10 pm

Worth a read
For the record, the discussion was over a pool cue and not a cue ball as reported. Also worth noting, the person Mr. Laxton threatened is 5'5" and was 74 years old at the time. The people that witnessed this incident are longtime Legion members. The criminal charges were dropped due to Mr. Gullison providing a victim impact statement to the court recommending no criminal record as to not impede Mr. Laxtons political career or trips to the US.

Up 17 Down 11

yukoner72 on Aug 13, 2017 at 6:57 pm

If Mr. Laxton ends up with a criminal record as a result of this accusation it will be a travesty of justice. However, in this era of "political correctness" and gender based justice, I would not be surprised if he is convicted. Canada's justice system is badly broken and needs repair ASAP. Too many innocent men's lives are being destroyed based on false allegations.

Up 17 Down 7

Gerry Steers on Aug 12, 2017 at 11:19 pm

I have known Dave for years. I worked with him, and after that have met him many times, in social settings, and at times in business ones. It doesn't seem to me that greeting an old friend with a hug and kiss is sexual. To me, it is a friendly gesture, and I have never found Dave to be out of line in any of our interactions. A hug or a kiss has never been anything other than a happy greeting or farewell to a friend, and I am certain, he meant nothing more than that with his accuser. I was shocked when he was accused as it is so out of character for Dave to do anything like harassment or sexual abuse. I am sure the woman's past history has sadly come to bear on an innocent gesture by Dave Laxton. I do hope he is found to be the innocent person, I am sure his actions intended.

Up 13 Down 11

Arek Hautaluoma on Aug 11, 2017 at 10:13 pm

I don't expect a hug and a kiss from people, even if I know them. I have a very few friends who we may kiss on the cheek (male or female), but that consent has already been established. PERHAPS he didn't mean it sexually, but people need to LEARN that this kind of stuff isn't excusable without a pre-established basis of consent, not a pre-established basis of 'this is what I do so you should expect it. At the very least he should be sentenced to some form of counseling and behavioral therapy. As for the people claiming that it would be different if the genders were reversed...society has to work on that too. Doesn't excuse this!

Up 40 Down 7

mary laker on Aug 10, 2017 at 2:18 pm

Sounds like this woman's history of sexual assault made her a lot more sensitive to unwanted touching. I agree that hugging and kissing people upon greeting and leaving is uncomfortable. I don't really like it. I do not however very often feel that the person is making a sexual move.

All very unfortunate and I hope Dave Laxton is not convicted. I'm sure a lot of people will reassess their hugging and kissing greetings by reading this, so the woman's report is not in vain. But I do think she's reading too much into this.

Up 36 Down 10

Just Sayin' on Aug 10, 2017 at 12:00 pm

You hit the proverbial nail on the coffin. If a man does it, it automatically becomes sexual harassment, but if a female does it, it is okay. How many times do women, kiss babies who are not their own? How many times do women offer hugs to people and society is just to expect it because women cannot commit sexual harassment. There is an unfair standard in society and it needs to be changed. Do not touch anyone unless it is behind closed doors with a pre-coitus contract prior to relations.

Up 66 Down 25

Ridiculous on Aug 10, 2017 at 11:39 am

This is infuriating. If this woman ever experienced REAL sexual assault she wouldn't be making this ridiculous thing an issue. I fear for my son when he grows up if he is ever the victim of a woman like this....unfounded complaints such as this can ruin people lives. She really needs to get a grip

Up 63 Down 2

Dave on Aug 9, 2017 at 6:46 pm

At the end of the day from my perspective as a male you just don't go initiating touching and kissing a casual acquaintance, doubly so when you are in some kind of public office or position of power. I don't initiate a quick kiss on the lips or even cheek for that matter to good friends I've known for years, it's just not appropriate 99% of the time and it would have to be well understood in advance that it was acceptable to the person if I did.
On the other side of things, did this have to end up in court with the accused facing charges? I think a reasonable person would have said, 'Stop it' at the time and left it at that unless the unwanted actions continued. And to all those who are going to jump on that statement, no I don't think you should have to tell someone not to touch or kiss you in the first place.
However if this action actually constitutes sexual assault then I've experienced sexual assault by women a few times over my lifetime as someone touched, hugged, or gave me a quick peck unexpectantly. While most times I'm usually caught somewhat off guard and am a little surprised when it happens I never think twice about it knowing they are just being nice at the time.

Up 58 Down 16

drum on Aug 9, 2017 at 6:35 pm

Dave's life ruined by a simple act of affection!!!!!
I am so sorry for him and his family. He deserves better.

Up 39 Down 5

jc on Aug 9, 2017 at 4:27 pm

Its true, some people - men and women are over affectionate, especially who came up from the sixties generation. I have known many in my life. I believe it was around the sixties when many men became more physical toward others as this barrier was broken. At my age of course, I am a bit more standoffish when it comes to this type of affectionate greetings and farewells, but many who came up in the sixties adopted it. However, I suppose it still makes some people uncomfortable.

Up 47 Down 15

Unreal on Aug 9, 2017 at 3:31 pm

“When you see Dave, you expect a hug and a kiss,” Eschak said.
Um, I don't expect a kiss on the mouth from anyone.

Add your comments or reply via Twitter @whitehorsestar

In order to encourage thoughtful and responsible discussion, website comments will not be visible until a moderator approves them. Please add comments judiciously and refrain from maligning any individual or institution. Read about our user comment and privacy policies.

Your name and email address are required before your comment is posted. Otherwise, your comment will not be posted.