A Toronto lawyer has been fired from an Ontario children's aid group after making eyebrow-raising remarks about teen girls. Per CTV, Gary McCallum was representing Kenora-Rainy River Districts Child and Family Services last year in a suit brought by a woman who says she was sexually abused by her foster father decades ago, when the group's predecessor was in charge. In a written statement in court, McCallum said that "a 14 or 15 [sic] girl is a sexually mature young woman, not a 'child,' as the term is conventionally understood." Loretta Merritt, a lawyer who represents sexual abuse victims, calls that comment "ridiculous," noting an Ontario law considers anyone under the age of 18 to be a child, and that criminal law spells out no one under the age of 16 can consent to sexual activity. "I find it almost beyond belief to suggest that any court would ever think that a 14- or 15-year-old girl would consent to sexual activity with her 40-year-old foster father," she says.
Bill Leonard, the child aid group's executive director, announced in a statement Monday that McCallum had been fired, and that he found McCallum's comments "appalling," "intolerable," and "abhorrent." The Toronto Star notes Leonard's outraged response is more forceful than it initially was: At first he simply noted McCallum's characterization was "inaccurate." And that has some wondering if McCallum's now-former employer was originally OK with him making such a comment. "If the children's aid society didn't know [the statement] was being made, that would … mean that the lawyer was acting without his client's authority or instructions, which would be unusual," Merritt tells CTV. "If they did bless a statement like that … that's even more concerning." (Read more Canada stories.)