Content warning: This article includes mentions of sexual assault and violence.
Ariana Markle, a student at York University, filed a civil lawsuit against the University of Toronto Governing Council, the Toronto Police Services Board, five individual police officers and campus constables, and other unnamed Toronto Police officers for damages exceeding $4 million. Two constables from U of T’s Campus Police Service — now renamed the Campus Safety Special Constable Service — and three officers from Toronto Police Services are named explicitly in the Statement of Claim filed by Markle. The lawsuit was originally filed in May 2019.
Incident in May 2017
The amended Statement of Claim, which sets out the details of the claim, alleges that on May 11, 2017, Markle was spending time in Hart House on the St. George campus when four campus police officers — two of which are named in the lawsuit — approached her. One of them seized her in relation to a warrant for her arrest, issued due to a failure to appear in court.
The warrant was issued against Markle for failing to appear in court a month prior, in conjunction with being prosecuted for a scratch on the arm of a person who had, according to the claim, sexually assaulted her in 2015. The case against Markle was eventually withdrawn unconditionally in July 2019.
The Statement of Claim alleges that she had missed court dates due to ongoing trauma and post-traumatic stress relating to the sexual assault. In an email to The Varsity, Markle wrote that she had provided medical documentation to be excused from court.
After campus police arrested Markle, she was transported to Toronto Police custody at 52 Division, a Toronto Police station, where the Statement of Claim alleges that she lost consciousness and was held overnight without access to medical care, even though she had suffered injuries the day before.
Markle’s Statement of Claim alleges that due to her interactions with U of T campus police and the Toronto police, she suffered basal skull trauma, lacerations around her neck, facial injuries, and traumatic brain injury, in addition to post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological, emotional, and mental harm. Markle alleges that she was assaulted a total of five times on that day, and is claiming damages for assault, battery, negligence, false arrest, intentional infliction of mental suffering, and misfeasance in public office.
In an interview with The Varsity, Markle summarized the goals of her case. “Basically, we’re trying to create a precedent by saying that this is not acceptable. Sexual assault survivors can’t be treated in such a violent manner,” she said.
Response from U of T, TPS
An activity report on U of T Campus Police’s website, prior to its redesign, read that on May 11, 2017, “A person was arrested for an outstanding bench warrant,” and that “The person [who was arrested] assaulted an officer.” The report does not specify who the person is, but according to the claim, Markle was charged with “assault of a peace officer” after her 2017 arrest; she claimed in an interview with The Varsity that she accidentally stepped on an officer’s foot during her arrest, and she did not intentionally assault them. The assault charge against Markle was dropped unconditionally in June 2019.
Both Toronto Police Services and U of T confirmed the ongoing case, but declined further comment. “The Service is currently the subject of a civil litigation matter in relation to an arrest made on May 11, 2017,” wrote a representative for Toronto Police Services in an email to The Varsity. “As proceedings are ongoing, it would be inappropriate for us to comment at this time.”
In a statement to The Varsity, a U of T spokesperson wrote, “This is a matter that is before the courts, and the university cannot comment at this time.”
Having experienced an increase in her health care costs since the arrest, and having had to use funds for her tuition to pay for legal expenses, Markle is fundraising to cover the expenses of the case. A GoFundMe that Markle started in July 2019 has raised over $2,000, and she has received additional donations from organizations such as the Canadian Union of Public Employees.
If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence or harassment at U of T:
- Visit safety.utoronto.ca for a list of safety resources.
- Visit svpscentre.utoronto.ca for information, contact details, and hours of operation for the tri-campus Sexual Violence Prevention & Support Centre. Centre staff can be reached by phone at 416-978-2266 or by email at [email protected].
- Call Campus Police to make a report at 416-978-2222 (for U of T St. George and U of T Scarborough) or 905-569-4333 (for U of T Mississauga)
- Call the Women’s College Hospital Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Care Centre at 416-323-6040
- Call the Scarborough Grace Sexual Assault Care Centre at 416-495-2555
- Call the Assaulted Women’s Helpline at 866-863-0511