Halifax university apologizes for inaction on professor’s ‘predatory’ behaviour

By CityNews Staff

HALIFAX — University of King’s College in Halifax failed to address reports of a professor’s sexual assaults on campus and instead protected him, an independent report has concluded.

King’s College president William Lahey apologized Wednesday for the school’s failure to keep its students safe from longtime professor Wayne Hankey’s “predatory and abusive” actions at the school where he taught between 1974 and 2015.

“To the men who have been harmed by Dr. Hankey’s reprehensible behaviour and the university’s inaction to spare you from it, I apologize to you, deeply, sincerely and publicly,” Lahey said Wednesday, speaking before King’s staff, students and media. He also extended an apology to parents and students who put their trust in the school.

“While accepting that King’s may never be forgiven by some for its responsibility and accountability relating to the sexual violence, bullying and misogyny of Dr. Hankey, my hope is that through the report and our response to it, King’s can show it is worthy of forgiveness,” Lahey said.

Halifax police had laid three charges against Hankey for incidents of sexual assault, gross indecency and indecent assault that allegedly took place on campus in the 1970s and 1980s while he was a professor at King’s.

Hankey, who was an Anglican priest until he was removed from the priesthood in 1991 following an allegation of sexual abuse, retired from teaching at King’s in 2015. But he continued teaching at Dalhousie University, which is associated with King’s, up until he was charged with sexual assault in February 2021. He died in February 2022 at the age of 77.

“Dr. Hankey engaged in a pattern of predatory and abusive behaviour towards some young men. We became aware of numerous incidents which ranged from subtle solicitation, sexual suggestion, homophobic remarks, to sexual assault,” reads the report.

According to King’s, Hankey was disciplined in 1991 following an internal inquiry by a university committee, but he returned to teaching at the school following a one-year suspension.

The report found that the 1991 probe was “overly narrow in scope” and “failed to connect the dots” between the accusation that led to the inquiry and an incident 10 years earlier when Hankey was found swimming naked with a boy in the university pool.

“This was a collective failure,” Lahey said. “There are many people who could have said something, could have done something.”

One man who said he was sexually assaulted multiple times by Hankey beginning in 1977 when he was 18, said the abuse, and his decision later to report it, had a lifelong impact. “This included psychological issues, health effects, a strain on his family relationships, the ending of many friendships, and ultimately, his decision to move away from Nova Scotia with his family,” the report says.

Recommendations from the review conducted by a Toronto-based law firm include issuing a public apology, continuing to seek information about other potential victims and making amends to the individuals harmed by Hankey — which could include financial compensation.

Lahey said the university “unequivocally” accepts all recommendations from the report it commissioned and will act on them. 

He said it’s too early to estimate how much money in settlements Hankey’s victims may receive or how many people may be eligible for it, but he said the goal is “appropriate and just compensation.”

“When people have been harmed in ways that warrant compensation, we are interested in paying them compensation,” Lahey said.

The former professor died weeks before his first trial was scheduled to begin. He had pleaded not guilty to all charges. As a result of his death, the charges were dismissed by the Crown.

The report, which compiled stories from interviews with more than 80 people who interacted with Hankey, says it is still possible there are people who were victimized by the professor who haven’t come forward. The authors of the report are asking people with relevant information about Hankey to come forward within the next 30 days. If additional information is received, an updated report may be released, they say.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 15, 2023.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship

Lyndsay Armstrong, The Canadian Press

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