Canada’s literary community is tearing itself apart over unspecified but “serious accusations” against one of its own.
The seeds of the literary row were planted a year ago, when the University of British Columbia (UBC) suspended author and lecturer Steven Galloway.
He was later fired after a month-long investigation.
This week, over 80 of Canada’s brightest literary talents came to his defence in an open letter to UBC.
In the letter released on Wednesday, writers including Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, Madeleine Thien and David Cronenberg demanded an independent investigation into how UBC handled the allegations against the creative writing professor and bestselling author.
The university has never revealed the substance of the accusations against Mr Galloway or the results of the investigation conducted by a former BC supreme court judge, citing privacy for both Mr Galloway and his accusers.
But media reports have uncovered accusations of bullying and sexual harassment.
The authors now face accusations that, in their criticism of the lack of due process they saw afforded to Mr Galloway, they are turning a blind eye to “rape culture”.
On social media, they were accused of failing to take into account the impact the flawed process had on complainants and in participating in a “court of celebrity”. Two withdrew their names from the letter.
Sierra Skye Gemma, who filed a complaint against Mr Galloway for behaviour she says she witnessed, told the Canadian Press wire service: “I wept when I read those names because I truly believe those writers have no idea the silencing effect this letter has on victims, both of the past and of the future”.
Ms Atwood defended her actions in The Walrus magazine on Thursday.
“My position is that the UBC process was flawed and failed both sides, and the rest of my position is that the model of the Salem Witchcraft Trials is not a good one,” she said.
For its part, UBC said in a statement that it reached its decision to fire Mr Galloway after a “thorough, deliberative process” that followed all labour laws and university and union standards and agreements.
They said a review of the university’s decision is already under way.
Mr Galloway, who faces no criminal charges, has not spoken publicly about the allegations and an ongoing grievance process is keeping him from doing so.