January/February, 1984

Richard Summerbell

p. 9.

Sex, drugs, violence: charges fly

VANCOUVER -- Much of what lent solidity to Rob Joyce's past is crumbling into the abyss. Eight months ago the fired youth employment counsellor was embroiled in a bitter and public battle with his former employers and their sponsors in the British Columbia Ministry of Human Resources (MHR). Joyce wanted his job back, and he wanted his name deleted from the provincial Child Abuse Registry, where it had been placed after an unorthodox governmental investigation into a teenaged hustler's later retracted accusation. Things have quieted down a lot since the Spring 1983 Info-Update news sheet (a publication of the Committee to Re-Instate Rob Joyce) ran a story on Minister of Human Resources Grace McCarthy under the headline, "McCarthy Caught in Public Lie." And nothing has happened to equal the event that sparked that headline: the minister appeared on a popular radio talk-show and tacitly accused Joyce of lying, all the while implying that he was an unrepentant child molester.

In past months, the silence on the unresolved Joyce case has been almost complete. The artificial calm has finally ended; but now, instead of accusations, counter-accusations and the growlings of talk-show hosts, the only sound is the dry and mechanical creaking of legal cogs. On November 16, Joyce filed a battery of writs and affidavits in the BC Supreme Court, launching a legal action that may yet prove to speak louder than words. Included in the writs are:

  • a petition to legally quash the government's record of its investigation into allegations that Joyce paid 15-year-old Robert Barry Schaddelee for sex.

  • suits for defamation levied against Grace McCarthy, her deputy minister, John Noble, and five other civil servants.

  • a wrongful-dismissal action levied against Joyce's former employers in the BC Corrections Association.

Meanwhile, the scene of the alleged offences fades slowly away. Senator House, the halfway house for "street youth" where Joyce, in his words, was "hired for being gay and fired for being gay," was ordered by the BC government to close on December 8. Even before the closure, most of the project's original staff had resigned (see story below). Schaddelee, the hustler who accused Joyce of paying him for sex and then publicly retracted the accusation in a vain attempt to "make it right" after Joyce had lost both his job and his employability, found his own way out of adolescent confusion in a fatal heroin overdose in May. And the BC government, tiring of upstarts like Joyce and embarrassments like the Senator Project, took advantage of a renewed electoral mandate and attempted to dismember its human rights laws, to curtail the powers of its employees, and to freeze out all but the least controversial of its social services. Only in these affidavits does the past live on, holding politicians and civil servants accountable for the situation in which Rob Joyce has been placed.

This is the story the legal documents tell: Joyce was a successful job counsel lor at the Senator who received a public commendation from Grace McCarthy for his role in helping teenaged prostitutes find other employment. In early January, 1982, one or more anonymous Senator staffers leaked information to the press pointing to serious management problems at the hostel. The January 12 Vancouver Province reported that the Senator was troubled by sexual relations between residents and staff, by drug use and trafficking, by violent incidents and the use of weapons, and by liaisons between residents and pimps and dealers on the street.

Since Joyce had been critical of the policies of Senator director Linda Zingaro, he was a natural suspect for having talked to the press. At a meeting on January 12, Joyce informed staffers that the BC Attorney-General's Department, the agency that funded his salary, was pressing him to "document" illegal activities at the hostel. George Horie, the hostel's accountant, responded to this information by repeatedly telling Joyce, "If you're not with us, get off the bus."

Two days later, Horie filed with the superintendent of child welfare the report that alleged Joyce had paid Schaddelee for sex. Unlike previous instances where Senator staff have been the subject of such accusations, Joyce was not informed of the charge nor of the investigation that followed it. News finally reached him through Senator child care counsellor Connie Smith, who had heard about the "top secret" investigation through the grapevine. By coincidence, Smith had also met Schaddelee shortly after hearing of the charge against Joyce. According to Smith's affidavit, Schaddelee "boasted to me that he had 'tricked' Rob Joyce, then acknowledged that maybe his 'trick' was not Rob Joyce. (He subsequently told a palpable lie -- that he was to perform with (folk singer) Shari Ulrich... that week at the Soft Rock Cafe."

Both Joyce and Smith attempted to meet with provincial investigators who were examining the boy's charge, but were not allowed to do so. The allegations against Joyce was officially determined to be "unsubstantiated," a neither-here-nor-there designation meaning unresolved rather than unfounded, which placed Joyce's name on the provincial Child Abuse Registry amd effectively ruined his social service credibility without allowing him to clear his name in the courts. Joyce went to the press with his story and was fired. His long and arduous campaign to be reinstated began February 3.

On October 1, 1982, Schaddelee signed a statement before a Vancouver police officer swearing that "Rob Joyce did not sexually represent himself to me in any way." This statement caused the MHR to investigate Joyce's case, but they considered the retraction and not the original events. In the end, little was resolved except that a vague, official shadow was cast over the credibility of Schadelee's retraction -- a shadow that will be difficult to dispell in light of the young man's death.

Joyce's situation has not changed substantially since October. Only the setting of his story has altered: the people and places keep changing or disappearing, the events are slowly forgotten. Joyce himself is not retelling the story to the press, saying nothing while the case is in the courts. If he senses his past is disappearing, though, he has one consolation. If his case forces the Canadian legal system to safeguard gay social service workers from the arbitrary application of sexual stigma, Rob Joyce may have -- and we may all have -- a more promising future.

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