Teenage girl "victim-blamed" by lawyer
YUKON - Dress code, taxi protests in Whitehorse highlight systemic problem
Women in the Yukon face a culture of victim blaming, an act that seeks to give perpetrators of sexual harassment a free pass
A Yukon woman involved in a sexual harassment case was victim-blamed by a male lawyer when she was still just a minor.
The case took place in the Yukon and involved the victim (who is now over the age of majority) being sexually harassed by a man in his forties.
The person who contacted the Whitewash News with the information said they were doing so because the recent protests against dress code and sexual harassment by taxi drivers are "only the tip of the iceberg" in terms of how common victim-blaming is in the Yukon.
"Victim-blaming is a big part of rape myths" the person told the Whitewash News "and it allows sexual harassers to say she asked for it by pointing to what women wear."
"The [Yukon] government facilitates victim-blaming through school dress code policies that blame women and forgive men for sexualising bodies."
"This attitude is part of the same culture that allows taxi drivers in the Yukon to believe they can sexually harass women who asked for it by getting into a taxi on their own whilst wearing clothing that caught the driver's eye."
"It's a systemic problem that is made worse by lawyers whose behaviour discourages victims from taking action against their perpetrators."
The lawyer who carried out the victim-blaming, James Tucker of the Whitehorse law firm Tucker Carruthers, grilled the minor over multiple days as part of her sexual harassment case.
Tucker zoned in on the victim's clothes and asked her questions such as "You intentionally adjusted your clothing to ensure your underwear showed?" and "You wore tops that were tight and short?"
At one point he said "You showed a lot of cleavage?" which clearly embarrassed the victim and forced her to say that she may have developed breasts quicker than other teenagers in her peer group.
Tucker went on to accuse the victim of intentionally removing her top in front of the man who sexually harassed her. He then accused her of making up stories and being a liar.
Tucker also argued that the actions of his client may have been 'welcomed' by the victim.
The disgusting strategy employed by Tucker is tragically common in Canada and intended to portray victims of sexual harassment and gender-based violence as 'inviting' sexual advances.
The idea that a woman could dress the way she wants to for reasons unrelated to inviting sexual advances is incomprehensible for a sizeable portion of straight men who define themselves by their misogynistic views.
Whitehorse lawyer James Tucker, a former president of the Yukon Law Society, victim-blamed a teenage sexual harassment victim and accused her of being a liar (Image: Yukon Law Society 2017 Annual Report)
Text messages and emails
The victim-blaming by Tucker took place despite the fact that everyone involved in the case had access to text message and email evidence shared between the victim and the perpetrator that clearly showed what was going on.
In one of the text messages, the victim says to the perpetrator "You got me at a very vulnerable time. Please stop texting me."
The perpetrator ignores her plea and continues to message her. She texts him again at a later date and says "Stop contacting me."
The perpetrator sent texts to the victim late at night saying things like he had a "ridiculous crush" and "I like you from top to bottom."
In another text he said that he was "sad" to see her holding someone else's hand.
An especially creepy text reads "zip up your hoodie or I'll tell your Dad."
In emails to the victim, the perpetrator said things like "I know I am scaring you about talks of crushes" and "constantly telling you how special you are has backfired on me in that I want to be around you too much."
He was also was accused of "keeping track" of the colours of the victim's underwear on different days.
Court sided with victim
Despite the overwhelming evidence against his client, Tucker argued ten different grounds in court as to why his client should be found not guilty of sexual harassment.
Tucker went so far as to claim that the victim should pay monetary damages to his client for "injuring" his reputation. He then pushed it even further by saying that the victim should pay part of his client's legal costs.
Now-retired supreme court judge Ron Veale rejected all of Tucker's arguments. At one point, Veale called Tucker out for causing "a great deal of confusion" by misinterpreting the law.
Veale refused to order the victim to pay compensation to Tucker's client, refused to order the victim to pay the legal costs of Tucker's client, and refused to believe Tucker's assertion that the victim "misinterpreted" his client's actions.
Even worse for Tucker's client, in recognition of the damage the sexual harassment caused, Veale ordered him to pay extra damages to the victim on top of what was initially awarded.
Lawyer always wins
For the average person looking on, Tucker may have looked like the world's dumbest lawyer and the obvious move would have been for his client to settle out of court.
From a defence lawyer's perspective, however, a case that involves lots of arguing and lots of dragging out can be highly profitable.
By making his arguments in court in the sexual harassment case, Tucker stood to make a huge amount of money, even if those arguments were useless.
Meanwhile, because the case was dragged through court, the victim (who wanted to settle out of court) had her suffering needlessly compounded and Tucker's own client not only had to pay more in legal fees but ironically had his reputation damaged even more as a result of Tucker's strategy.
Tucker was the only person who would have left the courtroom emotionally unscathed and financially better off in this circumstance.
Lawyers in the Yukon can make a fortune by bringing open-and-shut cases into court and using stupid arguments with little-to-no chance of success (Image: WN)
Impacts of victim-blaming
According to the Yukon Status of Women Council, the Yukon's sexual assault rate is 3.5 times the national average and the rate of cases deemed unfounded is 25 per cent in the territory, compared with 19 per cent nationally.
A 2018 Statistics Canada survey in the Yukon found 61 per cent of genders identifying as male or female reported being sexually or physically assaulted after the age of 15.
Despite these grim incidence statistics, only 3 per cent of victims report sexual assaults to law enforcement and very few perpetrators are ever brought to justice.
On March 30, Whitehorse RCMP Detachment Commander Inspector Lindsay Ellis announced that while the Yukon RCMP investigated 17 complaints of sexualised assault related to taxis since 2017, only three resulted in criminal charges.
Victim-blaming plays a huge role in the low numbers of complaints made to the RCMP and the even lower level of convictions.
Victims know that if they come forward or press charges, lawyers like Tucker can rip them apart, traumatize them further and destroy their self-esteem.
Judges and law societies
It's not just defence lawyers who engage in victim-blaming. In an Alberta rape trial in 2014, federal judge Robin Camp asked the alleged female victim "Why couldn’t you just keep your knees together?"
Camp also commented that young women “want to have sex, particularly if they’re drunk.” He also told the accuser that “sex and pain sometimes go together” and “that’s not necessarily a bad thing.”
It took almost three years and massive public pressure before Camp was forced to resign from his position as a judge in March 2017.
In a sure sign of how law societies look after their own first, Camp was reinstated into the Law Society of Alberta by his fellow lawyers in May 2018 and has been free to practice law ever since.
In Tucker's case, he held both the president and vice-president positions at the Yukon Law Society for six years (between 2014 and 2020) and is currently a member of the society's access-to-justice committee. (Update: The Yukon Law Society removed Tucker from this committee following the publication of this story).
The public has no say in how law societies in Canada operate because they are self-regulated and have no government or independent oversight. The societies police themselves and operate in the shadows to the benefit of their lawyer-members.
Federal Canadian judge Robin Camp was forced to resign from the bench in 2017, three years after he victim-blamed an alleged rape victim in open court (Original image: Andrew Balfour/Federal Court of Canada)
Background checks on lawyers
To verify the facts in this story, the Whitewash News searched court documents related to Tucker and the sexual harassment case using Yukon Public Law Library computers in the courthouse on Whitehorse's Second Avenue.
The law library provides public access to court documents as well as friendly advice on how and where to find specific documents. It also provides a resource for researching and carrying out background checks on a specific lawyer.
This effectively means that Yukoners have a free and accessible way to see what kind of person a specific lawyer is and how good or bad they are at their job before hiring them.
Whilst searching for files involving Tucker and the sexual harassment case, the Whitewash News came across a number of other cases where Tucker was called out by judges for making empty-headed arguments in court and one incident where his own client threw him under the bus.
#1 Yukon Tire Centre: In 2013, Tucker submitted an application to the court to have charges against his client, the owner of the Yukon Tire Centre, quashed. The charges related to the death of an employee who was crushed by a truck he was working under at what is known as Integra Tire on 107 Industrial Road in Whitehorse. Tucker argued that only the employee who was killed could be held responsible for his own death, and not his employer the Yukon Tire Centre. Judge John Faulkner commented that Tucker's arguments would "completely defeat" the purpose of the law. Tucker's application was dismissed, the trial went ahead, and Tucker's client was found guilty.
#2 Lee Carruthers: In 2004, Tucker's client Lee Carruthers, a white social worker, was accused by a Village of Carmacks administrator of displaying "kiddy porn" after organising a photo exhibition in the village that appeared to depict local children as degenerates. Carruthers left Carmacks and moved into the Hillcrest subdivision in Whitehorse where he was subsequently accused of harassing neighbours and visitors to the area. One neighbour said that Carruthers "makes my skin crawl" and a visitor told the RCMP that Carruthers had "accosted" his wife. Carruthers was forced to drop a personal injury claim he made against a neighbour after hidden camera footage showed him working and enjoying leisure pursuits at the same time he was claiming to be injured. At one point he appeared to throw his own lawyer under the bus by telling the judge that he broke a restraining agreement with one of his harassment victims because Tucker "advised" him to confront that victim, which was a direct contravention of the restraining agreement.
#3 MLA Pauline Frost: In 2021, Tucker represented former Liberal MLA Pauline Frost who lost her seat to NDP MLA Annie Blake in the riding of Old Crow. Frost filed a legal challenge in court that hinged on whether Christopher Schafer, a citizen of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation who was incarcerated in Whitehorse during the April 2021 election, was entitled to vote in Old Crow. If he wasn't entitled to vote, it would hand Frost the win by one vote. Tucker argued in court that Schafer was incarcerated in Whitehorse, not resident in Old Crow and therefore not entitled to vote in Old Crow. The nonsensical argument was dismissed by Supreme Court Chief Justice Suzanne Duncan who said even though Schafer happened to be incarcerated in Whitehorse, he was "entitled to vote" in Old Crow and "anything less would be a disenfranchisement."
Law library resource
The Yukon Public Law Library is on the ground floor of the courthouse at 2134 2nd Avenue, Whitehorse. It is open 9am to 1pm and 2pm to 4pm, Monday to Friday. Staff can be contacted at 867-667-3086 and email@example.com
Editors' Note: This story was published in the 'Real News' section of our website. Facts are supported by the links provided within the story and can be verified at the Yukon Courts. If you have been treated badly by a lawyer, consider sharing your story with the Yukon's traditional media outlets or the Whitewash News. Lawyer conduct is known to scare off victims of sexual harassment which in turn leads to greater incidents of sexual harassment. By letting lawyers know their conduct can and will be made public, we can help discourage the practice of victim-blaming.
Since publishing our story on the Yukon Theatre, the Whitewash News has come under attack from a small group of Yukoners who have no issues with the truth of our story but major issues with the fact that we published it. These individuals can't correct our story because our facts are verified. Instead, they are trying to discredit us by spreading false and unsupported allegations online and through word-of-mouth. We have temporarily banned some of these individuals from our Facebook page, including a long-time Yukon radio presenter who seems to have an axe to grind and has been spreading false allegations regarding the identity of Whitewash News writers. Criticism of the Whitewash News is welcome (and often justified) but we have to take steps to protect ourselves when false allegations - especially false allegations involving named individuals - are published on our platforms.