The Vancouver Scrum

On the move!

Agh! You’re still here? My new site and weblog, is now up and running; new posts are building up over there, never to be mirrored here. Go! What are you waiting for? All the stuff worth keeping has been migrated over to the new server, and I don’t anticipate making any more posts here.

Bloggers and webmasters: Update your links! Simply replace with in your blogrolls or bookmarks to point to the new site. Old posts will remain on this server for as long as the people at Blogger/Google allow them to remain; unfortunately, I’m not going to bother to come up with any way of converting permalinks on this blog to their corresponding posts on the new site. Yes, I plead laziness. I also realize the irony of switching away from Blogger just it starts to add features that the demanding blog nerds insist upon.

Thanks for reading and linking, and see you over at!

—Ian King, December 13, 2004

Monday, November 25, 2002

The Marsden File

Okay, it's pretty damned obvious that a lot of Scrum readers are coming here for dope and dirt on the case of Rachel Marsden, the Vancouver-area woman who is up on a charge of criminal harassment against her ex-boyfriend. We shall oblige.

Rachel Marsden, 28, first gained prominence in 1997 when she accused Simon Fraser University head swimming coach Liam Donnelly of sexual harassment. An SFU harassment panel, whose members remain nameless and whose proceedings were held in secret, found Donnelly guilty. The panel recommended that the coach be fired and that Marsden be given $12,000 in compensation. Donnelly, who had cut Marsden from the university's swim team the previous year, was fired on May 23, 1997.

Donnelly did not attend the harassment panel hearing on what he would later admit was bad legal advice. He countered the allegations against him in public with electronic and recorded evidence that it was Marsden who was harassing him, not the other way around. Marsden had sent him provocative pictures of herself to Donnelly, and had left several messages on his voicemail threatening him with a harassment complaint.

From the mediator's recommendations on the Marsden-Donnelly case, and how it was handled.

4. The University acknowledges that there were flaws in the procedures that led to Mr. Donnelly's dismissal.

5. The findings of the harassment panel were based on Ms. Marsden's credibility. Inconsistencies between her statements before the panel and her response to Mr. Donnelly's harassment complaint cast doubt on her credibility.

6. These recommendations do not constitute criticism of the panel members, whose report was based on the evidence and material placed before them.

7. There is no intent to disturb the remedies which the University has committed to Ms. Marsden.

8. Mr. Donnelly is reinstated in his position as Head Varsity Swim Coach effective immediately.

The controversy over the case led to the resignation of then-SFU president John Stubbs, who had defended the university's harassment policy and procedures, which were seen by others as being biased towards the accuser, and lacking in transparency. The university's harassment policy was formally changed some three years later.

Eventually, Marsden's credibility was called into question, and Donnelly was given his job back with back pay and $35,000 compensation for his expenses. Marsden was also on the receiving end of criticism of former SFU harassment counsellor Patricia O'Hagan, who had initially been supportive of Marsden through the harassment complaint process. O'Hagan later publicly complained that Marsden would then not stop phoning her, and that Marsden, on several occasions, asked O'Hagan to go out for nights on the town with her. O'Hagan revealed that Marsden had telephoned her over 400 times in one year.

Marsden went on to graduate from SFU and entered the B.C. Institute of Technology's broadcasting program. In 1999, while Marsden was still at BCIT, one of her former professors, SFU criminologist Neil Boyd, complained that Marsden had been stalking him and complained to the police about it. No charges were laid, and Marsden agreed to quit bothering Boyd after Burnaby RCMP warned her that her conduct could get her into legal trouble.

Since that time, Marsden has set about reinventing herself as a journalist and commentator. She worked as an assistant to Connie Chung in 2000, and also had a stint at BCTV/Global Television in Vancouver. In the last two years, she has written extensively for various (mostly American) right-wing web sites like, WorldNetDaily, and Political USA, expressing views that the Province newspaper described as being "somewhat to the right of George W. Bush." Marsden has said that her role models included Ann Coulter, Barbara Amiel, and the late Barbara Olson.

Ironic, then that she attempted to exploit a harassment complaints process at SFU that was engineered by feminist thinkers, most with a very "left-wing" political philopsophy. In fact, the process that Marsden used -- or is it abused -- was defended most vigourously by the likes of Judy Rebick and Marjorie Griffin Cohen, who saw the old SFU process as being fairer to women and minorities.

Marsden was working in Washington, D.C., earlier this year as a production assistant for conservative radio talk show host Blanquita Cullum. She had not been back in Vancouver for long before she was arrested on the evening of November 20, after Vancouver police received complaints from her former boyfriend that she had been harassing him

The ex-boyfriend's name is subject to a publication ban, so we cannot release many details about him. He is a 52-year-old former Vancouver radio personality who today works as a communications consultant in Vancouver. The man had been in a "very informal," on-again, off-again sexual relationship with Marsden for over a year before the relationship ended earlier this year. The ex-boyfriend recieved a series of e-mail messages and phone calls that Vancouver police describe as being "of a harassing and threatening nature" between October 2nd and November 12th of this year. Does any of this sound familiar; perhaps reminiscent of the Marsden stories of 1997 and 1999?

Marsden appeared in court on November 21st, where she was granted bail on $10,000 cash and several conditions. She is not allowed to contact her former boyfriend or eight of his associates. Marsden is also not allowed to speak to the media, nor may she comment on her current case on her personal web site. She is only allowed to send electronic messages in her own name. However, Marsden is allowed to leave the Vancouver area on business between now and her next court date on december 3rd.

Media coverage

Vancouver Sun: Woman in SFU sex scandal jailed
The Province: Rachel Marsden accused of harassing former lover
Southam News: Sex scandal centrepiece accused of harassment by ex-radio personality
CNEWS: Woman in university scandal faces charges
Coquitlam Now: Marsden faces harassment charge

Other Articles

The Fraser Institute, as one might suspect, was not impressed with the process that SFU used to hear harassment complaints, and provided this report on the subject.

Transcript of a July 20,1997 debate from CBC Television's Sunday Report over the Marsden/Donnelly affair and how it was handled.

Judy Rebick, former head of the National Action Comittee on the Status of Women, laments the media's coverage of the 1997 dispute.
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