Pro-lifers file lawsuit against abortion activist after assault at Toronto university
TORONTO, February 21, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) - Two pro-life activists who were viciously attacked in 2018 at Toronto’s Ryerson University are suing their assailant and the school's former student union body for mental and physical damages caused by the assault.
On October 1, 2018, pro-abortion activist Gabriela Skwarko attacked Katie Somers and Blaise Alleyne of the pro-life group Toronto Against Abortion (TAA), at the tail end of a peaceful pro-life protest at Ryerson University.
Somers and Blaise are seeking $23,000 in damages in civil court against Skwarko, in addition to the now-folded Ryerson Students’ Union. Somers serves as a director for the volunteer-run pro-life group, and was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) as a result of the attack.
The attack was captured on video and shows Skwarko approach both Alleyne and Somers from behind. Skwarko pushes and swings at Alleyne and tosses a metal dolly cart in her direction. Somers then calls for help as she is pushed by Skwarko, who goes on to try and rip off Somers’ backpack. Skwarko can also be seen tossing around what looks like a thermos.
Watch the video of the attack:
The pro-life activists filed the civil suit in late December; however, Somers and Alleyne do not expect a court date until sometime in March.
“We go to court and see what the outcome is. We are really hoping that justice will be served and we will win, and that will act as a deterrent to other people who feel that it is acceptable to resort to violence if they face a disagreement,” Somers told LifeSiteNews.
Skwarko was part of the Ryerson Reproductive Justice Collective (RRJC) at the time of the assault. Nearly a month after the attack took place, she was charged with assault and assault with a weapon. She later was arrested after turning herself into Toronto Police.
As a result of the charges, Skwarko was suspended from the school and then barred from the university campus for a year. She also lost a job working as an assistant at Ryerson’s Social Innovation Office.
In late April of 2019, Skwarko pleaded guilty to her charges in court and gave an apology to Somers and Alleyne. She was given a conditional discharge along with 18 months’ probation. Due to the nature of her charges, she did not gain a criminal record.
Somers says the main reason for seeking damages from Skwarko is to seek justice for the attack, which caused her to suffer undue mental and physical harm.
“There was a lot of damage done by the assault that I wouldn’t have foreseen at the time. I was physically injured, I had to go to a psychologist because I was terrified to go back on the street,” Somers told LifeSiteNews.
Somers said the main reason for including the former Ryerson Students’ Union in the suit along with Skwarko is because she feels they did not do their job in helping to prevent the escalation of violence occurring in the lead up to the assault.
“We feel that the Ryerson Student Union did a very bad job of deterring this escalating violence and we would like to send a message that they had a responsibility to do so,” Somers said to LifeSiteNews.
“We would like it to send a message to other student unions that they have an obligation to deter violence on the part of their members towards the public and student body.”
Despite taking nearly a year for her to return to doing pro-life outreach, Somers says that she will continue with the pro-life cause in the Greater Toronto Area, even though it comes with risks and goes against the wishes of her family, who are concerned for her safety.
“I went from having a harmonious life and now having PTSD and not doing pro-life outreach for a long time. We’re not just out there protesting abortion. We are also acting as a representation of alternative choices,” said Somers to LifeSiteNews.
“And with us at all times when we are doing outreach are resources for women to make a different choice. So, it’s not just about the freedom to protest abortion it’s also the freedom to offer women life-affirming choices as well as post-abortion healing.”
TAA always films its demonstrations as a safety measure. Alleyne noted back in 2019 that this helps to stop the majority of aggressive behaviour, however that did not happen with Skwarko.
In 2019, after Skwarko plead guilty to her charge, Alleyne said in comments to LifeSiteNews that he was the victim of three assaults. He said at the time that he has filed nearly 30 reports to Toronto Police as well as campus security.
He noted that the situation at Ryerson University was not great and that incidents of harassment come, “not exclusively but especially from members” of the Ryerson Reproductive Justice Collective.
“We know these incidents are not the norm but we’re fighting back hard and speaking out publicly because they’re increasingly common,” Alleyne added.