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Former Afghan interpreter suing Global Affairs employee, Canadian government for alleged sexual assaults | CBC News



Former Afghan interpreter suing Global Affairs employee, Canadian government for alleged sexual assaults | CBC News

WARNING: This story contains graphic details that may be disturbing to some readers

A female former Afghan interpreter who worked for the Canadian government in Kandahar, Afghanistan is suing a Global Affairs employee and the Canadian government for millions of dollars, alleging she was the victim of sexual assaults between 2011 and 2013.

The woman’s civil suit seeks $1.75 million from the defendant for punitive damages, mental suffering and loss of future or past economic gain. She is also seeking more than $1 million in damages from the federal government.

The federal government hired the interpreter in 2009 to help with the International Security Assistance Force, the multinational military mission that included Canada. She was 15 years old at the time.

The woman’s identity was previously subject to a publication ban, but the former interpreter successfully sought to have that ban lifted.

“I have determined that the way to reclaim my voice will be by telling my story and empowering other women who are facing, have faced, similar injustices to do the same,” she said in court documents.

Lawyers for the unidentified Global Affairs employee being accused of sexual assault have filed a statement of defence denying the allegations. CBC News is not naming him because he has not been charged criminally and the allegations have not been tested in court.

A brown building.
The Lester B. Pearson Building on Sussex Drive in Ottawa, headquarters of Global Affairs Canada. (Wikipedia)

The woman has asked CBC News not to use her name because of the nature of the allegations. She is not named in the court documents.

“I became the only female interpreter at Camp Nathan Smith. While working on the base, and without realizing what was happening, I was groomed by a senior Government of Canada official,” the woman said in a statement issued to CBC News.

“As a result of my work with Canada, my life was under threat by the Taliban,” the statement continues. “I was eventually lucky enough to be chosen to come to Canada. This individual offered me a place to stay in his home in Canada and ultimately went on to abuse me. What was supposed to be a beautiful story has become horrific and life-changing.”

Alleged abuse began as ‘father-daughter’ relationship

In court documents, she alleges that the defendant, employed by Global Affairs Canada, began what she describes as a “father-daughter” relationship while they were working together at the Camp Nathan Smith base in Kandahar.

She says the nature of the relationship changed and cites a number of incidents she said took place on the base, when the man began kissing her on the forehead or rubbing her back. She also alleges he showed her pornography in the presence of an American colleague.

The former interpreter says the defendant offered to help her take advantage of the special immigration program for Afghans who wanted to come to Canada and invited her to live with him and his family in Ottawa. She said the defendant spoke to her father about bringing her to Canada when they were both still in Afghanistan.

The woman says she arrived in Canada in October of 2011 and moved into the man’s home in November, when she was 17. She alleges the abuse started almost immediately and continued over the course of two years, often inside the family home. She says it was never consensual.

The statement of claims says that, even after she moved out of the defendant’s home, the abuse continued, accompanied by threats. She says the defendant told her that if she ever reported the abuse to anyone, he would send videos and pictures of their sexual activity to her father in Afghanistan.

Having been raised under an Afghan honour code that strictly forbids sexual activity before marriage, the woman says she feared she could put her life and the lives of her family members at risk if she spoke out.

She also alleges the defendant claimed that, because of his position in the government, she would not obtain Canadian citizenship and could be deported if she reported him.

Defendant denies inappropriate relationship

In the statement of defence filed by his lawyers, the defendant admits he knew the plaintiff but says he did not know her age. He says he did allow her to live in his home with his wife and children in 2011.

The defendant denies that “he carried on a sexual, romantic or inappropriate relationship with the plaintiff.” He says he did not inappropriately touch her or engage in physical sexual conduct with her, nor did he threaten or attempt to intimidate her. His lawyers say they have no further comment because the matter is before the courts.

A Global Affairs Canada spokesman said Friday afternoon the department is unable to comment because the matter is before the courts. 

The federal government claimed in its own statement of defence that “at no time did the interpreter formally or functionally report to …” the defendant.

The government says in its statement of defence that it denies any knowledge of the allegations and did not owe the woman a duty of care “at any material time.”

Woman claims she was taken to Montreal and sexually assaulted

The woman’s allegations are specific, graphic and detailed. Her statement of claim says that, due to her background and lack of sexual “literacy,” she often didn’t even understand the nature of what was happening.

She alleges that after she once complained of being hungry to the defendant, he “told her that he would give her food if she made out with him.” She says she did not understand this phrase and the man proceeded to forcibly kiss her.

On another occasion, the woman alleges she was taken to Montreal against her will and sexually assaulted in a hotel by the defendant. She says she suffers from depression and post traumatic stress and that her ability to work has been affected.

The defendant’s statement of defence says he is still an employee of Global Affairs Canada.

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