A former Abbotsford RCMP officer and hockey coach has lost his bid to have a civil lawsuit dismissed that alleges he sexually assaulted three minors between 1982 and 1985.
Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson rejected the application from Donald Cooke on Dec. 22 in BC Supreme Court in Vancouver.
Cooke argued that ongoing delays in the lawsuit are “slowly killing (him) mentally and physically” and have “seriously prejudiced (his) ability to defend the claims.”
“I do not have the energy or strength necessary to prepare properly for trial – to say nothing of how difficult it would be for me to travel from Ontario to Vancouver and live in Vancouver and participate in a lengthy trial,” he stated in an affidavit sworn on Oct. 7.
Three men – Robert Callan, Thomas Thiessen and Travis Piers – claim they were sexually assaulted by Cooke at the time he was a hockey coach for the Abbotsford AAA minor hockey team and an officer with what was then the Abbotsford RCMP.
Cooke was arrested in 2005, but Crown counsel later dismissed the charges, citing a lack of evidence.
Callan and Piers were both hockey players who allege that Cooke cultivated a relationship with them with the intention of sexually assaulting them.
Thiessen did not play hockey under Cooke, but claims the defendant began a relationship with him and his parents for the purpose of sexually assaulting him.
The three men each launched separate civil lawsuits – in 2011, 2015 and 2019 – but they were merged in early 2020.
The Abbotsford Hockey Association was among the original defendants named in Callan’s lawsuit, but the action against them was dismissed.
The Attorney General of Canada remains a defendant along with Cooke.
Cooke first argued to have Callan’s and Thiessen’s claims dismissed in January 2020, but the application was rejected.
He again applied for a dismissal, but this time also included Piers’ claim.
Cooke argued that the time that has elapsed since the rejection of his first application and delays due to the pandemic have resulted in his mental state taking a “deep dive.”
He said his mental and physical health issues have been exacerbated by the stress and not being able to readily access his doctors because of the pandemic.
“The defendant argues that the delays in these cases have been tactical and intentional, in an attempt by Mr. Callan to adduce similar fact evidence at trial by waiting until Mr. Thiessen and Mr. Piers proceeded with their separate actions against Mr. Cooke,” Hinkson stated in his written decision.
Cooke said the three men have been arguing since April 2016 that their cases should be joined, “but they have offered little explanation for the delay in bringing any applications to do so.”
Cooke said the delays have further “caused memories to fade and that some witnesses have died,” making it less likely he will receive a fair trial.
The three plaintiffs argued that the additional time has been needed to allow for the completion of expert reports and “the organization and management of the claims” since they were merged in March 2020.
Hinkson said he did not consider the delays to be “inordinate.” But in dismissing Cooke’s claim, Hinkson imposed a schedule on the plaintiffs that includes providing their list of witnesses and their preferred trial dates within nine months.
“I am satisfied that the interests of justice entitle the defendant Cooke to see the end of the litigation against him with greater certainty than he presently has, and the three plaintiffs must advance their claims with greater dispatch than they have demonstrated to date,” the judge wrote.