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Paul Haggis scholarship axed, filmmaker’s honorary diploma revoked at Fanshawe College

Screenwriter and film director Paul Haggis arrives at court for a sexual assault civil lawsuit, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022, in New York. AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson

Fanshawe College is cutting ties with one of its alumni, film director Paul Haggis, after a U.S. jury last month ordered the 69-year-old to pay US$10 million in damages to a woman who had accused him of rape.

In a statement Monday, the college announced it that it had cancelled a scholarship created with the Thames Valley District School Board in honour of the London, Ont.-born filmmaker, and was also “immediately revoking” an honorary diploma that was awarded to him in 2006.

In addition, all photos of and references to Haggis on campus and on the college’s website would be removed, the statement said. Haggis had been a student at the college in the 1970s where he studied film, however he didn’t graduate, according to The Interrobang, Fanshawe’s student paper.

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“Fanshawe College strongly condemns any type of sexual violence,” the college said, adding that the decision was “based on recent court decisions” involving the former student.

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Last month, Haggis was ordered by a jury to pay US$7.5 million in compensatory damages and US$2.5 million in punitive damages in a rape lawsuit brought by Haleigh Breest, 36.

Breest had sued the Oscar-winning filmmaker in 2017, alleging he had subjected her to unwanted advances at his New York apartment in January 2013, compelled her to perform oral sex and raped her despite her entreaties to stop.

The two had met previously while working at movie premieres in the early 2010s. Breest told the jury he had offered her a lift home following a screening after-party and invited her for a drink at his apartment.

Haggis testified that Breest was flirtatious and, while sometimes seeming “conflicted,” initiated kisses and oral sex in an interaction that was consensual. The jury ultimately sided with Breest. Haggis was not criminally charged.

Earlier this year, Haggis was put under 10 days house arrest in Italy as authorities investigated allegations he had sexually assaulted a woman there. A judge in Italy ruled in August that there were no grounds to continue investigating.

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Fanshawe’s announcement comes less than a week after members of city council voted unanimously to strip Haggis’ name from a park in south London named after him in 2011.

Haggis is best known for writing best picture Oscar winners Million Dollar Baby and Crash, which he also directed.

— With files from The Associated Press

Click to play video: 'New rape accusations against Canadian director Paul Haggis'
New rape accusations against Canadian director Paul Haggis

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