February 7, 2016 1:44 pm
Updated: February 7, 2016 7:33 pm

Rev. Brent Hawkes tells congregation ‘I will fight these allegations’

WATCH ABOVE: Rev. Brent Hawkes addresses congregation for the first time since sex assault-related charges were filed against him. Hawkes maintained his innocence and said he has faith in Canada`s justice system. Peter Kim reports.

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TORONTO – Addressing his congregation for the first time since he was charged with sexual assault last week, a prominent local pastor vowed to “fight these allegations with all that I have.”

The RCMP charged Rev. Brent Hawkes last week with indecent assault on a male and gross indecency in connection with alleged incidents between Aug. 1, 1974 and Dec. 31, 1975 when he was a teacher in Kings County, Nova Scotia.

“I want to be clear, I am innocent of these allegations,” Hawkes said in his sermon at the Metropolitan Community Church Sunday morning, repeating a statement released earlier this week.

“For 38 years I have fought with all that I have for equality for our community. I fought to give voice to those who have no voice. Now I will fight these allegations with all that I have. This time, however, my fight will be different. This time I will allow my lawyers to give voice for me.”

Hawkes’ lawyer Clayton Ruby said earlier this week that he’s confident his client will be “vindicated.”

“I believe him, completely, when he tells me these accusations are false and these events did not happen,” Ruby wrote in a statement.

WATCH: Church supports Rev. Brent Hawkes

Hawkes, whose gay rights activism earned him the Order of Canada in 2007, officiated Ontario’s first same-sex marriage in 2001. He also officiated NPD leader Jack Layton’s state funeral in 2011.

Among those in attendance Sunday were Layton’s widow and former MP Olivia Chow, former police chief Bill Blair and MPP Peter Tabuns.

Chow said she was in attendance to show her support for Hawkes, and raised questions about the charges, which no longer exist under the Criminal Code.

“The gross indecency law,  when it first started, the creation is homophobic, it’s there to say gay men having sexual relationships is a criminal activity. It’s no longer in the books so I think we need to look at the law.”

Tabuns declined to comment on the charges, but praised Hawkes as “a man of great integrity” who actively promotes social justice.

“We all recognize that you’re innocent until a judge decides otherwise and you also know that Brent’s risked his life in this community to protect human rights,” Tabuns said after the service. “He’s a man of great integrity.”

 

Hawkes is due in court April 13.

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