Editor’s note and trigger warning: This article contains discussion of sexual assault. Additionally, the Dalhousie Gazette has honoured the request to withhold the last name of one source to protect their privacy and well-being.
Four months after Jad Ghiz was accused in a Change.org petition of committing sexual assault, he has been reinstated as the Dalhousie Student Union (DSU) vice-president (student life). He was found “more likely than not” innocent by a third-party investigator hired by the DSU, as stated in an investigation summary President Maddie Stinson announced at a July 30, 2020 council meeting.
The now widely shared Change.org petition was posted on April 29, 2020, two nights before the current DSU executive officially started their term. The author of the petition writes Ghiz invited them to his “‘Jadfest’ campaign frat party” on the weekend of March 6, 2020.
The DSU’s third-party investigation, conducted by lawyer Kelly McMillan, concluded Ghiz likely did not drug or sexually assault the author of the petition at Jadfest. This finding was based on witness interviews, “hundreds of photographs,” emails and other online communications, according to the DSU’s published summary of the investigation.
McMillan also concluded the person who posted the petition is likely not who they claim to be. The author of the petition did provide a B00 student number to the DSU, which did match with a recent Dalhousie University alumna with the same name the author of the petition used: Olivia M. The Gazette contacted this alumna and she said she was not the person who wrote the petition.
In the petition, the author writes Ghiz gave them a drink in a cup at the March 6 party. About 10 minutes later, they began to feel dizzy and off balance. They were then guided to a bedroom by Ghiz.
“Next thing I remember is me laying on the bed fully naked with him undressing his pants in front of me. He notices that I weakly come to and starts shhhing me, telling me to relax and that it’ll be OK and that I shouldn’t resist,” the petition reads. The author continues to say Ghiz attempted to physically overpower them. They kicked and bit Ghiz until he relented and let them leave, they write.
The petition also claims Ghiz, who worked at The Dome nightclub prior to the fall term, told people at Jadfest he could get them free drinks at the club in exchange for votes and offered to sneak underage students in.
The petition ends with the author stating if Ghiz is not impeached from the DSU executive, the author and five of their friends will transfer to another university. This statement contradicts the fact the B00 number the author provided to the DSU belonged to a student who already graduated from Dal.
“This is not the way I wanted to start the year,” said DSU President Maddie Stinson in an interview with the Dalhousie Gazette. Stinson was alerted of the petition the night it was posted and called Ghiz to inform him of it.
After Stinson explained to Ghiz what was written in the petition, Ghiz said he was “absolutely in shock.”
Ghiz released a statement responding to the petition on May 2 through his personal Twitter account. He denied all allegations of sexual assault and said he reached out to the Halifax Regional Police (HRP), Dal administration and Dal Human Rights and Equity Services (HRES) with the hopes of initiating an investigation.
The DSU released their first statement on May 5, which outlined their initial steps in responding to the petition. Similar to Ghiz, the DSU reached out to HRES, who told the DSU they would be unable to initiate an investigation. The DSU then contacted the Halifax Regional Police (HRP), but did not receive a response until after the statement was published.
The statement also announced the DSU was calling an extraordinary council meeting for May 7 to update councillors on the situation and determine what to do next.
The extraordinary council meeting
At the May 7 meeting, Stinson explained to DSU councillors that HRES only begins an investigation if asked by the survivor of the alleged assault. She also announced the HRP had responded to the DSU. The DSU had been contacted by the survivor, but would not share the survivor’s information with the HRP unless the survivor requested it.
Next, Stinson motioned to suspend Ghiz for seven days with pay, a non-disciplinary measure to allow for any investigative proceedings to be carried out. Black Students Community representative Claudia Castillo-Prentt questioned the motion, citing concerns from membership about student fees being used to pay a potential perpetrator of sexual assault.
According to DSU bylaws, withholding Ghiz’s pay constitutes a disciplinary action, said Vice-President (Finance and Operations) Isa Wright. Without any evidence of wrongdoing, the DSU could be vulnerable to a lawsuit if they withheld pay and Ghiz was later proven innocent, according to Wright. Stinson then called the DSU’s legal counsel who confirmed Wright’s claim to the rest of the council.
The motion to suspend Ghiz for seven days with pay then passed.
DSU bylaws stipulate a motion to discipline a councillor must be submitted to council at least 14 days before it is voted on. Before the meeting ended, Castillo-Prentt introduced a motion for the next meeting (scheduled for 14 days later) to suspend Ghiz without pay, with reimbursement of his missed pay at a later date pending the results of an investigation.
The account of the petition’s author
Prior to the May 7 DSU council meeting, the Gazette contacted the petition’s author through a Reddit account. When the Gazette requested a phone call interview, the account responded, “if I am honest I’d rather have this interview on email rather than on call. Just because last time I talked about this and even when I was writing the petition I kept breaking down.”
The Gazette then agreed to conduct the interview by email. On May 8, the account, which was not a Dal.ca email, responded:
“I get memories or flashbacks sometimes remembering things he might have done to me. I have been going therapy for a few weeks now trying to work through it. . . I don’t remember feeling a lot of pain I just remember shock, confusion and fear when I came to,” they said in one of their responses.
The petition states Ghiz’s history as a racist, homophobe and sexual predator can be “further verified by multiple people that have had similar interactions with him.” The Gazette asked to be put in contact with these alleged victims to corroborate stories about Ghiz.
“Feel free to send me questions directed at them and I can forward it to them and send you the responses,” the account responded and later said their stories could be shared anonymously since, “unfortunately none of them were willing to share their name.”
These stories were sent to the DSU by email and forwarded to the Gazette by the petition author. It included the petition, all of its comments and two screenshots – one from an email and the other a Reddit direct message. Both have the senders’ name removed.
In the email screenshot, someone who claims to be a former friend of Ghiz’s alleges they went with Ghiz and other friends to concerts. Ghiz allegedly once molested them while standing in the large crowd by forcibly placing his hand under their clothes. Ghiz says he has only been to one large outdoor concert where patrons stood: the 2017 Osheaga Music and Arts Festival in Montreal, which he attended with a group of people he met there.
The Reddit message is from someone who says they met Ghiz at a University of Prince Edward Island University party in 2017. At the party, Ghiz allegedly bragged about having found a woman to “hook up” with and said he was in the process of getting her “too drunk to refuse,” the message reads. Ghiz attended high school in Prince Edward Island and graduated in 2017. Ghiz denies the allegation in the Reddit message. He says he was celibate until 2018 for religious reasons, influenced by his father who is a pastor.
“There was a strictness in the house. I grew up holding sex as like a very intimate and precious thing,” Ghiz said.
One comment on the petition, posted by a user named Fairs Raed, read, “This guy wouldn’t let my friend into his party because she was wearing a hijab (a Muslim headscarf) he legit told her take it off or fuck off,” it reads. The Gazette was unable to find or contact Fairs Raed.
Ghiz, who was born in Lebanon, denies this incident taking place. “I’m a minority. I’m not against minorities,” he said.
On May 14, Ghiz uploaded his second statement on the allegations to his Twitter page.
“This Olivia [M.] does not exist,” he wrote. He believes the accusations were fabricated by someone pretending to be Olivia M. in an attempt to damage his reputation and remove him from the DSU executive, the statement read.
The Gazette emailed the Olivia M. account and asked if they could share their DalCard to prove they were a Dal student. On May 15, the Gazette received an image of a DalCard with the B00 student number digitally blocked. However when the image was compared to another DalCard, there were some noticeable differences, including the font used and image placement.
This was the last communication the Gazette received from the Olivia M. email address.
May 21 council meeting
On May 21, council held their second meeting in response to the petition. Stinson began by saying disciplinary action would be considered unusual at this point and the DSU is still vulnerable to a lawsuit should they discipline Ghiz. She then provided a timeline of the DSU’s communications with the creator of the petition.
Between May 6 and 15, the DSU received emails from the sender showing interest in aiding an investigation and removing Ghiz from office. They also included questions concerning investigative options, consent for an investigation run by Dal and agreement to meet with the DSU executive. On May 15, the sender also requested the DSU immediately post a statement confirming their identity was accurate.
No statement was posted as the DSU could not confirm the person they were in contact with was named Olivia M. The person would not email the DSU using a Dal email address.
The DSU and the person behind the email address had scheduled a meeting for May 20, which the person cancelled. It was rescheduled for May 21 prior to the council meeting and was again cancelled by the person.
Stinson then shared the DSU’s investigative options. Because HRES wouldn’t conduct the investigation, according to DSU legal counsel, the best path forward was to hire an experienced third-party investigator.
The person behind the petition had given their written consent through email to the DSU for a third-party investigation to take place, Stinson said.
According to the Stinson’s report at the May 21 meeting, Dal administration verbally agreed to support the DSU to get the matter resolved as quickly as possible. When asked about this support, Dal spokesperson Janet Bryson said in an email to the Gazette that the DSU is an independent organization and should be consulted for information on their investigative process.
At the end of meeting, Castillo-Prentt rescinded her motion from the last council meeting to suspend Ghiz without pay. She asked that the meeting minutes reflect she did this solely to protect the survivor from potential legal action.
Investigation and results
The third-party investigation was conducted by Kelly McMillan, a lawyer from Nijhawan McMillan Petrunia Barristers.
McMillan declined an interview request from the Gazette to speak about the investigation, citing confidentiality obligations.
The DSU executive signed a contract with McMillan on June 2 and gave her a deadline of June 11. At the June 18 council meeting, it was announced McMillan had failed to meet this deadline and requested a month-long extension. The executive declined and instead offered a two-week extension. The DSU judicial board then had until July 30 to present their recommendations to council.
At the July 30 council meeting, Ghiz was reinstated as vice-president (student life) of the DSU after Stinson announced that McMillan completed her investigation on June 26 and concluded it was likely Ghiz did not drug or sexually assault the creator of the petition at Jadfest.
The investigation did find Ghiz broke DSU bylaws and code of conduct through breaching his loyalty to the DSU by criticizing the union in his statements.
“The DSU are not participating in [an investigation with the HRP] because they have decided to obey the wishes of a phantom masquerading as a survivor,” Ghiz wrote in his May 14 statement.
While presenting the results of the investigation, Stinson said Ghiz’s statement was not made with ill will and he was not disciplined for it.
The investigation summary continues to explain the parameters of the investigation to outline things that were not investigated in relation to these allegations.
The investigation did not address any additional allegations of sexualized violence against Ghiz that arose online during this period or alleged campaign violations in respect to the 2020 DSU election. There was no investigation into potential misuse of Dal property, which is in reference to complaints posted on Reddit in the days following the creation of the petition. Multiple Dalhousie students and alumni said they received an email saying they signed the petition when they never had. No information on this aspect of the issue has since been revealed.
When asked if Ghiz thinks he’s ever committed sexual assault, he said “I, without a shadow of a doubt, have never assaulted anybody.”
“Within the first weekend, we had compiled enough evidence to clear my name,” Ghiz said in an interview with the Gazette.
He and his roommates created a timeline of the night in question to track Ghiz’s location every few minutes with a timestamp accompanied by an image including Ghiz or the names of partygoers who could confirm his whereabouts. Ghiz says he showed this timeline to the investigator. He provided a version of the timeline to the Gazette with redacted names.
There are a few inaccuracies in the petition about the circumstances of the party, mainly because it refers to Jadfest as a campaign and frat party.
According to Ghiz’s roommate, Joshua Langston, the party was planned in Ghiz’s honour. Langston and another roommate, Patrick Mackay, had recently hosted parties for their respective birthdays but Ghiz missed both due to work commitments at The Dome. After his roommates realized they hadn’t celebrated Ghiz’s 2019 birthday, they decided to throw him a party, Langston said.
“I never invited anybody. I never did any advertising for that party. I had nothing to do with it,” Ghiz said.
“It was just kind of a coincidence that it coincided with his campaign,” said Langston.
Ghiz is a member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity at Dalhousie, which according to Ghiz and his friends has a reputation contrary to the stereotypical frat image.
“I mean, they don’t even drink at the fraternity,” said Samantha Chu, a friend of Ghiz’s. “They like to shovel people’s driveways, you know.”
“We’re a strictly non-drinking fraternity,” said Langston, who’s the fraternity president.
According to Langston, the fraternity generally doesn’t hold events at the fraternity house. When they do host events involving alcohol, they take place at the Grawood or University Club. Jadfest was held in Ghiz’s house, not the Phi Delta Theta frat house. Additionally, the frat house is on Seymour Street and Ghiz lives on the second floor of a house on Quinpool Road, about a 15-minute walk away, making it difficult to confuse the two locations.
The petition implies the assault was possible because Ghiz drugged the author’s drink.
“First of all, if I was going to make people drinks, I would at least make myself a good one,” Ghiz said. Photos from the night confirmed he was drinking from a mason jar filled with orange soda and alcohol.
The Gazette spoke with Ghiz’s roommates, friends and party attendees, including Chu, Kheira Morellon and Marike Pinsonneault. They all said Ghiz and his roommates could not afford to supply drinks to the party, everyone brought their own alcohol and no drinks were handed out in cups.
The Halifax Regional Police
Ghiz said he contacted the Halifax Regional Police (HRP) in May to attempt to launch an investigation into the assault and prove his innocence. The HRP were unable to start an investigation into the assault because neither Ghiz nor the DSU was the survivor of the assault, according to Stinson. But once it became clear the author of the petition was likely not former student Olivia M., the HRP began investigating a case of identity theft, according to the DSU and Ghiz.
In September 2020, the HRP shifted their investigation away from a case of identity fraud, according to Stinson. However the investigation is continuing, as the HRP recently court ordered the DSU to produce any and all documents or data related to Jad Ghiz and/or Olivia M., and the online post in question, including but not limited to: emails and council meeting minutes dated between April 27, 2020 and June 24, 2020, according to Stinson. Most recently, the HRP have considered pursuing a charge under Section 312 of the Canadian Criminal Code, meaning libel and defamation, but this is the most recent update the DSU has received from the HRP.
The Gazette reached out to the HRP to try and confirm the investigation was happening. The HRP said they could not confirm the names of individuals involved in an ongoing investigation, with the exception of the name of the accused in a case where charges have been sworn before the courts. No charges have yet been laid.
Survivors of sexual assault, racism and other forms of violence looking for support can contact the following resources: DSU Survivor Support, phone: 902-425-1066, email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Dal Student Health and Wellness Centre, phone: 902-494-2171; Dal Human Rights and Equity Services, phone: 902-494-6672, email: email@example.com; Dal Security, phone: 902-494-4109, email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Avalon Sexual Assault Centre, phone: 902-422-4240; and South House Sexual and Gender Resource Centre, phone: 902-494-2432.