According to police, more than 100 people have filed formal complaints against Halifax-area dentist Errol Gaum, but four times more people have stepped forward to take civil action against the dentist.
Halifax police arrested Gaum on Tuesday. He’s now facing eight counts of assault in relation to eight separate incidents involving eight complainants.
Among them is Margaret Abando, who came forward to complain about Gaum’s treatment of her in the 1970s.
“I thought I would go forward and do an interview with the police department and just tell them the story of what happened to me in the 1970s,” said Abando.
She says she was a patient of Gaum when she was just seven years old and while she’s put what happened behind her, when she heard of new allegations from children against the dentist in 2020 she had to speak up.
“My only intention was to support the young kids,” she said.
“It’s very important because there’s been a lot of medical professionals who have gotten away with things for years that they shouldn’t have — nobody would listen. It’s nice that people would actually listen now.”
In 2020, on behalf of his then-six-year-old daughter, Ryan Binder publicly brought forward allegations of misconduct against dentist Gaum. He filed a report with police, and since then more than 100 people have reported similar cases to police. According to police just eight of those were determined to have evidence to support charges. The rest of the investigations concluded without charges.
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Abando says she knows that many people were disappointed only eight charges are going forward, but is glad to see something happening.
“Hopefully, you know, justice will prevail,” said Abando.
But the criminal system is not the only avenue for justice. A civil case against Gaum is also proceeding and that case has more than 400 complainants.
“It’s a significant number of people and we continue to accept and take calls,” said Coralie Robert, an associate lawyer at McGillivray Law, which is behind the pending class-action lawsuit against the dentist.
A notice of action statement was filed in 2020 and includes allegations that Gaum restrained patients, verbally threatened them and even physically assaulted some of them.
“What is important is strength in numbers. Just seeing how many people have been affected by this dentist is quite significant,” said Robert.
The class action has not yet been certified in court. That’s the next step, with a hearing scheduled for the fall. But if certified, the lawsuit will move ahead as the criminal charges also make their way through the court system.
“They’re unrelated, that’s what people need to be aware of,” said Robert.
In an email, Gaum’s lawyer for the class action says they “do not comment outside of Court in matters where legal proceedings are ongoing.”
In a notice of defence submitted to the courts, Gaum has denied the allegations against him.