Brent Hawkes trial told the Toronto pastor performed sex act on teen

‘It’s not so much what I remember, but what after 40 years I’ve been unable to forget’

KENTVILLE, N.S. — A man testifying at the trial of a well-known Toronto pastor says he saw the religious leader perform a sexual act on a teenage male at a Nova Scotia home in the 1970s.

“I couldn’t believe it,” the man testified in Kentville provincial court Monday at the trial of Rev. Brent Hawkes, an influential gay rights advocate who officiated at former NDP leader Jack Layton’s state funeral in 2011.

The witness said he knew Hawkes when he was a student and Hawkes was a basketball coach at a school in the Annapolis Valley.

He said he was about 16 years old when a group of people went drinking at a local tavern, and then to Hawkes’ home.

The witness said he remembers only a few things about that night.

“It’s not so much what I remember, but what after 40 years I’ve been unable to forget,” said the witness.

Hawkes took the young man to a small bathroom, and told him he had been watching him, and was “80 per cent sure I was gay,” he said.

“It was uncomfortable. It was very uncomfortable,” the witness said, later telling the defence he felt that Hawkes was hitting on him.

Hawkes then started talking about Jesus and God and his own spirituality, and said he could feel God’s hand in his own hand, the man testified.

He said they returned to the living room, and he later looked over to see Hawkes performing oral sex on his friend.

Hawkes, wearing a black suit with a burgundy tie, clutched a black notebook as he walked into court Monday. He sat in the front row of the gallery and listened intently to the testimony.

Defence lawyer Clayton Ruby appeared to question the witness on the accuracy of his memories of the evening, noting that last year he told police how many people were in the trailer home that night, but he could not recall that on the stand Monday.

“It’s not what I remember, sir. It’s what I cannot forget,” the witness said. “After 40 years I’m trying to forget everything I can about that night.”

Hawkes has pleaded not guilty to charges of indecent assault and gross indecency. Nova Scotia’s Public Prosecution Service has said the alleged victim was 15 or 16 years old at the time.

Another man testified Monday he was also at the party that night, and alcohol was being consumed.

“Several hours in, we were underway. We were drunk. But it was a weird drunk,” the witness said, saying there was a game being played which required clothes to be taken off.

“When you have four or five heterosexual men in their underwear, you know there’s something going on.”

When asked by the Crown if there were physical acts that happened at the trailer, the witness put his head down for several seconds and replied, “Yes.”

“(Hawkes) had us in the first bedroom and (was) doing bad things,” said the witness, choking back tears, adding there were about three other people in the room, including one of his school friends.

The witness also testified that he later saw Hawkes go down the hallway of the trailer nude with another one of his school friends.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.