Kathryn Marshall Featured In National Post

‘I’ve never seen an organization fight this hard to contest jurisdiction,’ lawyer Kathryn Marshall says

Ongoing efforts by the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation to change the venue of a sexual harassment suit filed by a foundation scholar are an attempt to force the alleged victim to drop her case, the victim’s lawyer said.

A hearing, carried out Tuesday in a St. John’s courtroom by Newfoundland Supreme Court Justice Peter Browne, centered around allegations made by Cherry Smiley, who alleges she was sexually assaulted in 2018 by Stephen Kakfwi — former Northwest Territories premier and her assigned foundation mentor.

Initially filed in B.C. court in May 2021, the foundation has yet to file a statement of defence, but has filed numerous motions requesting dismissals and requests the case be moved to a different venue.

“They’ve been trying to move this case to Montreal for years — I’ve never seen an organization fight this hard to contest jurisdiction,” Smiley’s lawyer Kathryn Marshall said in an interview.

“It might very well end her case and they know that — that’s as big part of why I think they’re doing what they’re doing, and I think it’s disgusting.”

Foundation counsel had previously argued the case be dismissed as a Vancouver court had no authority to rule on a matter that took place in Newfoundland — particularly one concerning a Quebec-based organization.

A motion then filed by foundation lawyers dismissed Newfoundland as an inconvenient venue, as they and most of their officals are based in Quebec.

Stark differences between Quebec’s legal system and the rest of Canada would mean Smiley would need to find herself new counsel, incurring further costs and delays, Marshall said.

“The fact that it’s quite difficult for a common law Anglophone lawyer to dip her toes in Quebec is a point that can’t be overlooked,” she said.

Smiley was in her second year of PhD studies at Montreal’s Concordia University at the time, and was a Trudeau Foundation scholar. Scholars chosen by the foundation are eligible for a $225,000 scholarship over three years, according to Smiley’s statement of claim.