Brent Hawkes, the senior pastor at Metropolitan Community Church and a longtime leader of Toronto’s gay community, has been charged with an alleged sexual assault from four decades ago.
Hawkes was charged with two counts in December 2015: indecent assault against a male and gross indecency. Both charges relate to a single person, who was a minor at the time of the allegations.
The alleged incidents occurred between Aug 1, 1974, and Dec 31, 1975, in rural Nova Scotia, where Hawkes was teaching high school at the time.
Hawkes has categorically denied the charges against him and has retained Clayton Ruby, a famed civil rights lawyer, to represent him.
In a statement released to the press and posted on MCC’s website, Hawkes stated that he would defend himself against the allegations.
“I want to be crystal clear: I am innocent of these allegations. The purported events simply did not take place. While it is impossible for me to understand where these almost 40 year old accusations come from, I have a faith that will sustain me as well as faith in Canada’s justice system,” he wrote.
“For 38 years, I have fought, with all that I have, for equality for my community. I have fought to give voice to those without voice. Now I will fight, with all that I have, these accusations. This time, however, my fight will be different; this time I will allow others to give voice for me. I wish I could say more. Suffice it to say, I have lots to say. But everything I have to say will be said in court. So I know you will understand, that for now, we will have to leave things there.”
Metropolitan Community Church, where Hawkes has been senior pastor since 1977, released a statement standing behind Hawkes.
“The Board of MCC Toronto knows Rev Hawkes as a man of high integrity and an inspirational community leader who has led MCC Toronto for 38 years in its quest for tolerance and inclusiveness,” wrote the church’s board of directors. “Brent has our steadfast support.”
Hawkes grew up in Bath, New Brunswick, but taught high school in Nova Scotia in the 1970s, before moving to Toronto.
Two lawyers representing Hawkes appeared in a Nova Scotia courtroom on Wednesday and convinced the judge to delay his plea date until April 13.