Ghomeshi’s lawyer to speak to universities despite some opposition

Speech by Ghomeshi's lawyer to go ahead

ANTIGONISH, N.S. — A speech by Marie Henein, Jian Ghomeshi’s lawyer, will go ahead at three Canadian universities Friday evening despite opposition from some students in Nova Scotia.

The prominent Toronto defence lawyer is scheduled to speak at Bishops University in Sherbrooke, Que., as part of a lecture series, with the presentation live-streamed to St. Francis Xavier and Acadia universities in Nova Scotia.

Jasmine Cormier, a student at St. F.X. in Antigonish, wrote an article in that university’s weekly newspaper in November, saying Henein’s selection serves to silence victims and perpetuate rape culture.

Cormier says she’s concerned by the message sent by Henein’s aggressive treatment of the women who had accused the former CBC host of sexual misconduct, and she wanted Henein’s speech cancelled.

“We instituted a new sexual violence policy and then to have it go hand-in-hand with this lecture is kind of like saying one thing and doing another,” she said Thursday. 

However, Cormier said she is pleased that promotion of the live-streamed event has been low-key on her campus.

“We’ve had some emails saying that it is going to be happening, but no posters, and not the norm for presentations of that size,” she said.

Henein is a senior law partner at Henein Hutchison, and has been counsel on numerous high profile and controversial cases.

After Ghomeshi’s acquittal in March of charges of sexual assault and choking, the then-editor of Canadian Lawyer magazine, Gail Cohen, penned what was headlined “A love letter to Marie Henein,” in which she said Henein’s peers consider her one of the best in her field.

“The outrage, the mudslinging, the name calling, and the general focus on Henein is a sign of the times, and not a good sign, in my humble opinion. Almost all of it shows an incredible lack of understanding by the public of the justice system, what a defence counsel’s role is in the system, and what the rights of the accused are,” she wrote in May.

Henein penned her own opinion piece last fall, for The Globe and Mail, about the lessons of Hillary Clinton — saying the former U.S. secretary of state’s recent loss must inspire women and girls to engage “on every front … until you cannot be overlooked.”

Acadia University has scheduled a panel discussion to follow the speech. That panel will be moderated by the coordinator of Acadia’s Women’s and Gender Studies program.

“For Acadia to be doing that, it’s a great way to contextualize it,” Cormier said. “It’s, ‘This is what she is going to say — do we agree? Do we disagree? And why or why not?’ That’s what’s important about keeping the conversation alive.”

St. F.X., Acadia, Bishops and Mount Allison comprise what has been branded as the Maple League, and offer presentations to all the campuses via livestreaming. Mount Allison won’t be showing the Henein speech.

Aloma Jardine, a communications officer at Mount Allison, said the speech was not originally part of their event planning for this year.

“We considered the timing and our live-streaming capabilities in making our decision,” she said.  

— By Kevin Bissett in Fredericton.

The Canadian Press