Legal Canada - Ontario
19, 2001 (updated Aug. 29, 2004)
Erika Kubassek Assault Trial
art deco façade and first floor appointments of the College Park building,
located a slap shot away from Maple Leaf Gardens in downtown Toronto, held out
the promise of being an enriching court experience, on so many levels. A beautiful
concert hall is mothballed on the top floor. Glenn Gould was known to have loved
the acoustics and ambiance of the performance space, where he often rehearsed
on his piano. It is neglected now, a tarnished crown on top of an old Eaton's
store that has been transformed into a mixed-use commercial property.
was in the building to attend the trial of Erika Kubassek, a woman who disrupted
the 11:00 a.m. Sunday service in my church, on the day of my wedding, January
14, 2001. Erika Kubassek was charged with assaulting Reverend Brent Hawkes, the
senior pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto. I was in search
of courtroom 503, which I wrongly assumed would be on the 5th floor, and I was
lost until a police officer directed me to the 2nd floor.
lingering memories of the grandeur of the setting of last
November's marriage hearings were soon wiped out as the elevator doors to
the second floor opened, revealing a bland government-issue reception area, a
long line of people waiting to be searched and scanned before proceeding to their
courtrooms. After I was cleared by security, I quickly found Rev. Hawkes and his
spouse John Sproule outside the courtroom, accompanied by Rick Firth, Director
of Finance and Administration for MCC
Toronto. Together, we entered the courtroom, while witnesses for the case
were kept outside to ensure they did not hear each other's testimony.
the consternation of everyone involved, Kubassek's lawyer disappeared minutes
before the trial began, causing an unnecessary delay. When he finally returned,
the case began with Rev. Hawkes on the witness stand, and Justice W. Horkins on
The Testimony of Reverend Dr. Hawkes
Hawkes began by introducing himself as the senior pastor, for the past 24 years,
at the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto. He explained that the MCC Toronto
had announced, at the beginning of December, that the church would be reading
the banns for gay and lesbian couples. The announcement, he recalled, received
pastor was asked to explain what happened at the worship service on January 14,
usual situation on Sundays is that we have worshipping services at 9 and 11 a.m.,"
Rev. Hawkes said. "There had been a number of weeks since the banns had concluded,
so we anticipated a normal service. It was a regular worship service. After the
sermon there was a hymn and then the congregation was invited to come forward
for anointing and healing. I proceeded down to my anointing station. Usually people
come forward in a line that forms and they are directed to individual stations.
We have a large number of people who do the anointing, usually around 10 or 12
people and additional people in the balcony. I proceeded to anoint a few people
and then I heard some yelling.
looked up, and there was a women in the center area
she was facing the
congregation and was yelling. I stopped doing what I was doing and went around
in front of her and spoke in a calm voice. She was yelling about Jesus and the
bible, and homosexuality being wrong.
was trying to be calm, because it was very disruptive to have that happen, particularly
at that time of the service. I said to her that she needed to stop yelling, that
disrupting a worship service was a criminal offense and that if she didn't stop
yelling, she would be charged.
put her hands on my chest and pushed me. I stumbled backwards and almost fell
over. I stood up and realized that she wasn't going to calm down. I asked the
congregation to rise and sing and when I turned around she was being lead out
of the sanctuary."
adding that he hadn't been injured in the brief incident, the Crown concluded
its questioning of. Rev. Hawkes.
attorney defending Ms. Kubassek began his cross-examination by pressing for details
of the minute or two in question.
you give me indications in terms of distance, how far she would have been away
from where you were standing?" the defense lawyer asked.
or fifteen feet," Rev. Hawkes answered.
walked towards her, she took no steps towards you?"
far is the first pew behind your back?"
or Three feet."
the entire congregation has a view of your back. There is a clear view of your
close did you get to Mrs. Kubassek?"
it be closer than that?"
don't think so."
she back away from you or come towards you?"
believe she remained where she was and then moved forward and pushed."
she listening to what you were saying?"
she kept yelling."
put her hands on your chest and you took one step back?"
were you doing with your hands?"
were off to my side."
you ever attempt to put your hand on her shoulder?"
she ever slap at one of your hands?"
don't recall that happening."
going to suggest to you that you put your hand on her shoulder. Could that have
also going to suggest that when you put your hand on her shoulder, she then pushed
not correct," Reverend Hawkes concluded.
Testimony of Jayme Rowat
the cross-examination of the first witness complete, the crown called Jayme Rowat
to the stand. She began her testimony by explaining that she had been sitting
in the second pew from the alter, in the center section of the church, during
the 11:00 a.m. service on January 14, 2001, when "a woman approached the
alter from the back of the church and interrupted Reverend Hawkes and physically
took over the service."
Rowat testified that she first observed the defendant, when Mrs. Kubassek went
by where Rowat was seated, just after the anointing portion of the service had
went over in front of Brent Hawkes and turned to face the congregation, directly
in front of Brent Hawkes. She began speaking very loudly and drowned out the service."
court heard that Rev. Hawkes was standing behind Mrs. Kubassek, and as he moved
to her right side, to get around her, Mrs. Kubassek pushed Brent. Ms. Rowat told
the court that she thought Reverend Hawkes had fell back towards the alter, contradicting
Reverend Hawkes' testimony that he had stumbled in the opposite direction, towards
the church pews.
was the first indication that witness testimony would not be collaborated. Under
questioning from the defense lawyer, further inconsistencies began to emerge.
Brent Hawkes reached out with his right hand to place it on her shoulder",
the defense lawyer asked, "and she slapped it back?"
Ms. Rowat replied, in contrast to Rev. Hawkes' testimony.
have some of the order mixed up. Isn't it possible that it was Rev. Hawkes who
reached out first, and then there was arm contact?"
Rowat said, however the seeds of reasonable doubt were taking hold.
described Mrs. Kubassek facing the congregation and Rev. Hawkes coming from behind
her and to her right. He stumbled back towards the alter?"
didn't see Rev. Brent Hawkes being pushed with open palms into a pew?"
I did not."
had a clear view of everything?" he asked, hammering home the inconsistency
for the court.
Testimony of Tony Bryant
a brief recess, the court heard from one final Crown witness: Tony Bryant, one
of many security professionals on duty that day. Mr. Bryant, who was wearing a
bulletproof vest under his civilian clothes, explained that he used to be a U.S.
police officer, and that he now works as a bodyguard and owns a security guard
January 14, , what was your role?" the Crown asked.
designed the security requirements for him [Rev. Hawkes] that day. My purpose
was to ensure his safety going back and forth to the church that day, and his
security in church."
Bryant explained that he had received intelligence information from the Ontario
Provincial Police and from the Toronto police, regarding bombing, knifing, and
other threats against Rev. Hawkes. On the day in question, he said he was about
ten feet away from Rev. Hawkes when "there was a commotion in the back of
the church that had caught my attention. The accused was in the back pew and she
was asked to move over to allow some space and she refused. We watched her throughout
the service. She was agitated and fidgety and she didn't fit in at all. She was
not participating in the service. She was talking to herself in very rapid motion
and shaking her head. She didn't appear happy to be there.
the service, there is a point where the Reverend asks people who want to come
forward for anointing to come forward. She stood up, and almost sprinted to the
front of the church. She got there long before anyone else had got to the front
and she turned around and she began to speak. She said that being gay was a sin,
and an abomination, and she had some papers in her hand."
Bryant went on to describe how Rev. Hawkes walked around her and faced her with
"his arms open in a pastor form" with his hands parallel to the body,
and palms out.
recalled that Rev. Hawkes said, "Ma'am, this is a church service. This is
described Rev. Hawkes' voice as "very pleading. The voice was very low, monotone,
not sharp or threatening."
took her right hand and she shoved him," Bryant said, "right about center
or left shoulder is where she shoved him back to the point where he almost tripped
and fell. He was knocked backwards towards the congregation. At that point I approached
her and told her she was under arrest.
resisted and pulled away from me. She had some papers in her left hand, and as
I was escorting her out, she threw the papers in the air to scatter them around.
I put her in an escorting arm bar and turned her over to a police officer and
told them that I had put her under arrest for disrupting the service, which is
an indictable offense."
Kubassek's lawyer began his cross-examination aggressively. His client had previously
laid a private assault charge against Bryant, but the courts stayed the charge
earlier this year. Her lawyer suggested that Bryant's written account of the incident
was corrupted by his wish to avoid the same charges that Kubassek is dealing with.
statement is very detailed and my interpretation of this statement is that you
go to some length to exonerate yourself as to whether you did something wrong,"
Kubassek's lawyer said. "Was that on your mind?"
it possible that you wrote this statement after the charges were laid against
you? Were you aware of the contents of Mrs. Kubassek's statement made in the counter
charge against you, at the time that you wrote the [statement]?
Bryant replied. "At the time I gave my statement to the attorneys there were
no charges pending."
a look at the second page," Kubassek's lawyer prompted, his voice insinuating
conspiracy, as he read. " 'I walked E K to the nearest back entrance of the
church. I did not drag her. She walked on her own.' Why would you say that if
you had not yet read her statement about being dragged?"
are all facts that are commonly put in any report that we do."
Kubassek's lawyer persisted in trying to paint a conspiracy.
a look at paragraph number 3, second page, of the
statement. 'Reverend Hawkes
did not touch E.K. [Erika Kubassek] at all.' It seems that your
is a result of you being aware of her statement."
whole evidence today is tainted today because your intent is to shield yourself
Bryant insisted flatly.
lawyer moved on, following his attempt to put Bryant's motives in question, to
illustrate another inconsistency in testimony.
portion of her hand or arm came in contact with Reverend Hawkes?"
put her hand on his chest, as I described to the Crown."
was only one hand she uses because she has something in her left hand?" Kubassek's
lawyer asked, confidently. "Correct?"
right," Bryant confirmed, contradicting Reverend Hawkes' testimony that both
hands had been placed on him
the inconsistency in testimony made it clear that Bryant had not collaborated
in constructing false testimony, it also enabled the Kubassek's lawyer to call
the whole case into question.
the moment, the lawyer sarcastically noted, "Your job is to observe".
His final bait was to repeat Rev. Hawkes testimony to the court. "I am going
to suggest that it was two palms on his chest."
by now annoyed by the tactics of Kubassek's lawyer, muttered something like "ludicrous"
in response, but the damage was done.
lunch break, Kubassek and her lawyer were in obvious good spirits, encouraged
by the morning's testimony. Kubassek, a blonde of a certain age, wears her shoulder
length, schoolgirl hair parted in the middle. On this day, she was wearing a black
coat with faux leopard skin pockets. Beside her, as we waited to be called back
in to court for the afternoon session, sat a man in a dark suit. Under his suit,
he wore a pinkish shirt, and black slip-on shoes dangled at the end of his delicately
crossed legs. A goatee adorned the man's face, surrounding tight lips that spoke
with a slight lisp.
gaydar was on high alert. How could this be?
was Pastor Dale Hoch, the first witness in defense of Mrs. Kubassek.
of Pastor Dale Hoch
Hoch began his testimony for the defense by introducing himself. He is the Pastor
of Evangelism at the International Gospel Center in downtown Kitchener. He has
been with the church for 26 years, and has known Mrs. Kubassek since 1983 when
she took an interest, for a few years, in helping young ladies who came into a
youth center. He described a casual relationship, where they saw each other in
church service, or chatted together on the phone. They have not worked together.
by questions from Kubassek's defense lawyer, Rev. Hoch described Kubassek as someone
who is non-violent and "regarded in a very good manner", although he
said he imagined "people view Erika as somewhat of an activist."
kind of community are you talking about when you discuss her reputation?"
the Crown asked.
think Erika is known among a number of churches in the area," Rev. Hoch replied.
it be fair to say that within the Christian community, there are schisms? Not
everybody agrees? You are aware of MCCT [Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto]?"
you describe your Center as being aligned to MCCT?"
I wouldn't say that our church is opposed to any one person or organization but
we do have different standards about what we believe, in terms of right and wrong."
The Crown became
more specific, and asked whether Rev. Hoch and Mrs. Kubassek shared similar beliefs
I think they are very similar in terms of what she believes and what our church
stands for. I don't see any differences in convictions. She likes to take issues,
she's somewhat of an activist, we stand for the same issues, but I don't think
we are activists in our church. Our organization is more pastoral. Erika has more
of a ministry she likes to take out to people."
those people like it or not, apparently.
visit to MCCT was consistent with her approach in espousing her beliefs?"
the Crown asked.
definitely likes to take her message out," Rev. Hoch replied. "She's
been on the news at different times, and she does write articles in our newspapers,
and government things in Ottawa
abortion issues too?"
is opposed to women going topless?"
not aware of that."
it be fair to say that she is aggressive in her beliefs?"
don't know that I would say aggressive
she tends to be very passionate
about what she believes."
your face, to use the vernacular?"
suppose that is a fair assumption," Rev. Hoch replied.
would your ministry react if someone from MCCT came to your church and began to
preach from the pulpit uninvited?"
wouldn't be allowed. We would ask them to stop and if they didn't stop the ushers
would come and escort them out."
you ever go to another church and do what she did?"
I wouldn't," Rev. Hoch replied. "Because as a pastor I am more sensitive
to what happens in a church service and I would deal with things outside rather
than in. My method would be different."
her beliefs cloud her judgment?"
Kubassek, who had become animated during this part of the questioning, shook her
head when Rev. Hoch looked at her from the stand.
she exercise good judgment in interrupting a church service?" the Crown persisted.
Rev. Hoch said. "If a church service is interrupted, I can't condone that.
We stand by the law also. If a church service is disrupted deliberately, I feel
that causes a problem.
that effect your assessment of her reputation in the community?"
it doesn't, because I know her heart and her labours of love over the years. One
disruption doesn't mean the person has gone bad."
Testimony of Erika Kubassek
establishing the "character" of Kubassek, it was time for the real thing.
one who believes so firmly and literally in the Bible, Kubassek chose to affirm
she would tell the truth, rather than place her hand on the bible and swear to
tell the truth.
the morning of January 14th, 2001, Kubassek claimed that God paid her a 9:00 a.m.
call and told her to come to Toronto.
gifted, the Lord advised me to go," she said, in response to her lawyer's
questioning. "What I do, I do in obedience to God's word."
explained that she knew that MCC Toronto was breaking God's law, so she brought
along some pamphlets with her. "I decided when I had an opportunity I would
went to the front and I said that homosexuality is an abomination in God's eyes.
I am concerned that they will die and they will be lost. What I do, I do out of
love for humanity. I had one more sentence to go when the pastor came around and
circled me once and stood in front of me and tried to stop me from speaking. I
wanted to say, "God created man and women', and I didn't get to say that.
Hawkes] put his hand on my left shoulder and he pushed down hard on my shoulder,"
Kubassek claimed, adding that Hawkes hollered in her face, telling her to stop.
threatened by the way he was in my face and the way he was bearing down on me,"
she said. "It [the push] was inadvertent and accidental. At that moment,
the bouncer came up behind me. Tony Bryant grabbed me by my right arm. He shoved
it up as high as it will go and I was in excruciating, agonizing pain. He just
about dislocated my shoulder and broke my right arm."
such claims of injury, Kubassek sought no medical assistance.
didn't see anyone but I did tell the police officers that I was seriously hurt
and I was in bad pain."
were there because you had a calling to go?" the Crown asked, beginning its
husband and I are called to speak out about issues of morality. We both have spiritual
gifts that have been confirmed in many places. I told him that I had to go. I
received a message from the Lord."
says that God's message, to go to MCC Toronto and quote scripture, was received
from Him at 9 o'clock, that morning, in Cambridge. God's timing was perfect, of
course, enabling Kubassek to arrive in time for the 11:00 o'clock service. She
took her place in a pew, careful not to lose her easy access to the aisle, thereby
attracting the attention that Tony Bryant mentioned in his testimony.
was waiting for an opportunity, and that was the opportunity, when he called the
congregation to the front for anointing," Kubassek said.
intended to go to the front at the first opportunity?"
you going to quote scripture or interpret it?"
was saying things in my own words."
it fair to say that you weren't there to quote scripture but rather paraphrase?"
understanding coincides with over 5,000 years of civilization," Kubassek
replied with confidence. "Christianity is actually pretty straight forward,
it's just that we've had some falling away from God. We're morally bankrupt in
the western world."
sees herself as an instrument of God, an oracle ready to pronounce judgment.
spoken out on many issues. I am a prophetess. I have prophetic gifts and that
is my calling."
often would this happen in your church?" the Crown asked, wondering perhaps,
what her reaction would be if gay activists entered her church to denounce the
spiritual abuse perpetrated by false-prophets.
all love," she began with a qualifier that usually means the opposite, "[I]
would have to say [they] are wrong and in all love ask them to go. You [the Crown]
are trying to say right and wrong have the same rights. If you have wrong views
you are wrong and you don't have the right to speak out. If you are right, than
you do have the right to speak out. There is right and wrong and good and evil.
Not everything is relative and not everything goes."
when you are God's prophetess.
someone espouses what is wrong they are not allowed to speak."
of course, Mrs. Kubassek. Her absolute confidence of right and wrong giver her
justification to speak, anywhere, anytime. The assault charge resulted from her
determination to speak on the morning in question.
asserted that her physical response was unintentional.
accidentally reacted. I wanted to finish what I had to stay. I would not withstand
the lord if he gave me a mission, and he gave me a mission."
she murder someone, because God told her to?
dismissed such suggestions, saying that God wouldn't command her to kill. "That
was the Old Testament," she said.
Testimony of Phil Kubassek
Kubassek was called into the courtroom, as a witness for his wife, however he
couldn't support her testimony about Rev. Hawkes yelling at her. "I can't
say that I recall." And he couldn't support his wife's statement about being
touched forcefully by Hawkes. "I couldn't see what was going on, as far as
the contact," he said.
cross-examination by the Crown, Mr. Kubassek was a bit cagey about the special
"gift" given to them by God.
did you go to that church that day? It was just a random decision?"
Mr. Kubassek replied, as his wife again shook her head at a witness. "It
was to give them a message," he said, glancing back at his wife to see if
this was more on track, "because we sent them a letter and they didn't respond.
went to take my wife to that church because that is where she wanted to go that
day. She had it in her heart to go," he said, warming to the subject. "She
felt that that was the right thing to do. She felt that the Lord wanted her to
go that day - that the marriages weren't right."
did you decide to go there?" the Crown asked, still fishing for "gifts".
Kubassek stumbled, selecting various times during the morning in question.
the Crown let the cat out of the bag. We already knew about the gifts.
feels that it's her responsibility to stand for what is right," Mr. Kubassek
said, "in all love and patience and Christian feeling."
the message your wife received in light of the marriages that were happening that
is the primary reason and we knew that it was not condoned by the government and
it wasn't aligned with the word of God, as well."
recalled our Justice Minister's discrimination against gays and lesbians by supporting
a separate regime for heterosexual marriage: "One man and one woman to the
exclusion of all others." The government had sent a message that gays and
lesbians were second-class, and it was heard loud and clear.
Judge chastised the lawyer representing Mrs. Kubassek for his tardiness at the
start of the day. There wasn't enough time for summation, and a painful discussion
over calendars ensued until January 22, 2002 was set to close the trial. We need
not have waited.
judge found her "rude", "offensive" and "extreme",
but without criminal intent.
Kubassek praised the Lord.
asked if she would ever disrupt a church service again," the Kitchen Record
reported the next day, "Kubassek said 'sure ...' "
29, 2002, Rev. Hawkes was told that the Crown intends to appeal the judgement.
Mrs. Kubassek was to return to Ontario court on February 6, 2002, to answer charges
of disrupting a worship service (January 14, 2001, MCC Toronto). This disruption
trial will be delayed, pending the appeal of the assault charge.
October 4, 2002, the Ontario Superior Court upheld the acquittal of Kubassek (age
58). Crown prosecutors immediately appealed the decision.
August 26, 2004 the Court of Appeal for Ontario found that the lower courts had
erred in their judgment and Mrs. Kubassek was found guilty
Courtroom drawings courtesy of John