Source: The Province
By Suzanne Fournier, The Province
VANCOUVER — Women’s groups in the Downtown Eastside are stunned that a church shelter is employing a man who is in a sex offender treatment program after being convicted of public indecency.
First United Church runs a “low-barrier” shelter which was widely reported last February to have been the site of at least six alleged sexual assaults.
“After the reports of sexual assaults there, I’m very surprised that First United Church would employ a sex offender in a shelter, as a person in a position of power over highly-vulnerable women,” said Kate Gibson of WISH.
“Either they didn’t do their due diligence and check for a criminal record or it simply doesn’t matter to them, despite the highly-vulnerable women who have to use their shelter.”
B.C. Housing spokesman Fergus McCann said “BC Housing can confirm that the signed contract with First United does contain a clause relating to the requirement to undertake criminal record checks on staff.”
Tajinder Singh “Ricky” Gill was convicted last October 18 of “wilfully committing an indecent act in a public place” in the presence of “a named individual,” a woman who was driving her van along a busy Surrey street.
Gill, who now works as a night shift supervisor in the First United shelter drove up beside her so she could see him masturbating his exposed penis, then deliberately “paced” his vehicle to follow her in traffic.
He made eye contact with her while she tried desperately to avoid him.
Gill admitted the masturbation but argued his car wasn’t a public place.
Surrey provincial court Judge Kenneth Ball called Gill’s evidence “self-serving.. unreliable and incredible.
“I find as a fact that Mr. Gill was aware that he was masturbating his exposed penis while driving on a busy public street in Surrey,” said Ball.
The judge noted that psychiatric reports found Gill had “some risks that need to be faced” and asked that Gill “complete a sex offender program.”
Gill is still within the 15-month conditional discharge term in which he was to complete “therapy, counselling or other programs for sex offenders.”
First United Church spokeswoman Regan Lal, a public relations advisor, admitted the church was “aware this member of staff has been convicted of this specific charge, namely indecent exposure.
“We took very careful note of the official judgement in which it was clearly stated that he posed no threat to vulnerable people – specifically children and youth. We take all staff behaviour seriously and will continue to act on any incident that is reported to us.”
Harsha Walia of the Downtown Eastside Women’s Coalition charged First United “is the only organization in the Downtown Eastside which refuses to post photos or warnings about sex offenders.
“A convicted sex offender should not be in a shelter with women and youth.”
Vancouver police now walk through the church shelter and respond promptly.
All the sex assaults have been investigated and three have led to charges.