Church decision on harassment expected soon

By Ashley Prest
Winnipeg Free Press
May 12, 2015

The result of Monday's formal hearing regarding a sexual harassment complaint against Westminster United Church minister Robert Campbell is expected this week.

The hearing, commissioned by the United Church of Canada's Winnipeg-based Conference of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario, was conducted by an independent committee from the Toronto Conference regional body.

It followed a formal investigation and 27-page report by an impartial investigator completed in January 2015. The report, obtained by the Free Press, upholds the complaint and concluded Campbell's "actions and comments amount to sexual harassment and is behaviour of a sexual nature that is known or ought to be known to be unwanted or unwelcome."

Rev. Shannon McCarthy, executive secretary of the Conference of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario, told the Free Press in an email Monday "the United Church of Canada takes all complaints seriously and has a process whereby we discern appropriate disposition of these matters."

"I can confirm that a formal hearing was held in Winnipeg (Monday) regarding a complaint against the Reverend Robert Campbell under the United Church's sexual abuse prevention and response policy and procedures," McCarthy said. "A decision is working its way through the official channels of the church... I expect that we will have something (a result from the hearing) within the week."

Campbell, 61, denies most of the complaints by the victims and witnesses in the investigation and, citing legal advice, has declined a request a request for comment.

The matter does not involve criminal charges or allegations.

"It would be inappropriate for me to comment just as it is inappropriate for whomever to have advised you of these things," Campbell said Sunday.

The investigation report upholds the complaint, which details numerous alleged incidents in which Campbell "touches and caresses" the backs and arms of young men who are church members, has had young men alone with him in his office, has shown up uninvited at a young man's workplace six times in two months, and has gone uninvited twice to a young man's apartment when he knew the man's wife would be away.

The report included evidence from six witnesses containing statements that describe Campbell as participating in "excessive drinking," referred to Campbell as "dangerous and a predator" and "actively pursuing young males at the church."

In a pair of lengthy written responses contained within the report, Campbell admitted to taking a church member's friend into his bedroom and closing the door for an estimated 45 minutes, and telling a church member her young son was "incredibly attractive." He also stated it was "an innocent remark" when he asked a young male church member "if he liked cuddling."

Campbell told the investigator "he had his drinking under control, his attitude was just fine and his actions were often misunderstood."



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