By Catherine Abes
CONTENT WARNING: This story contains mentions of sexual violence. If you are affected by this story, resources are available at the end of the article.
A Markham, Ont. man who recently attended Ryerson University is facing two charges of sexual assault in York Region and Waterloo.
According to a media release from York Regional Police (YRP), the Special Victims Unit began an investigation into 22-year-old Nathan Lee after a victim came forward to report that she had been sexually assaulted in late 2019 at a residence in Markham. Lee was arrested and charged by YRP then charged with another sexual assault in Waterloo in November 2020.
YRP said investigators believe that there may be additional victims and urge anyone with information to come forward.
Anyone with information is asked to call the York Regional Police Special Victims Unit at 1-866-876-5423, ext. 7071 or contact Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-TIPS, or leave an anonymous tip online at www.1800222tips.com.
According to court files obtained by The Eyeopener, Lee previously pleaded guilty to a charge of sexual assault in Ottawa in February 2018 and was sentenced in August 2018. The assault occurred in March 2017, when Lee was a student at Carleton University.
It’s unclear if Lee left Carleton due to disciplinary action resulting from the conviction or if he transferred. When reached for comment, Carleton would not confirm whether Lee was expelled or if the university was aware of the conviction. In an email to The Eye, a Carleton media relations officer declined to answer any other questions regarding Lee, stating “information around cases of this nature is confidential.”
When a student transfers from one university to another through the Ontario Universities’ Application Centre (OUAC), they are required to provide their official university transcript and academic record to all the schools they apply to.
However, there is no part of the application that asks applicants to disclose previous criminal charges or convictions, according to Lois Weir Ferguson, the manager of applicant services and undergraduate processing at OUAC.
According to his LinkedIn profile, which has since been deleted, Lee studied international business at Carleton from 2016 to 2018, then studied business technology management at Ryerson from 2018 to 2020. Before the profile was deleted some time in July 2020, Lee’s profile stated that he was a second year student.
The Eye independently verified that Lee studied at Carleton until at least March 2018, began school at Ryerson in fall 2018 and was still a student until at least February 2020.
Ryerson did not confirm Lee’s current enrollment status, stating “Ryerson University is subject to privacy legislation and therefore unable to confirm someone’s status as a student with the university unless permitted by privacy legislation” in an email.
Ryerson also didn’t respond to questions regarding whether the university was aware of the previous conviction against Lee when he enrolled.
The Eye verified that in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years, Lee played on the Rams men’s ultimate frisbee team.
The Eye reached out to Lee for comment on this story. In an emailed response from his legal counsel, Lee declined to comment.
Ryerson’s response unclear
Ryerson community members were made aware of allegations against Lee in July 2020, when anonymous accounts of his past conduct appeared online. The Eye has not verified the veracity of the allegations made in the accounts.
On Reddit, an email template was shared for students to email Ryerson expressing concerns regarding Lee. The email was addressed to the men’s ultimate frisbee team, Ryerson president Mohamed Lachemi, the Ted Rogers School of Management (TRSM), TRSM associate professor Chris MacDonald, Human Rights Services, the Office of Sexual Violence Education and Support, TRSM dean Daphne Taras and TRSM associate dean, students Allen Goss.
A student who used the email template told The Eye they only received a response from Human Rights Services.
“The Human Rights Services office will review the information you have forwarded to see if there is anything that may be within our jurisdiction,” the response read. “The university will take appropriate measures in the event there are actions related to the activities of the university. For matters that fall outside of the university, individuals are welcome to contact external resources in the community.”
According to Ryerson’s sexual violence policy, “the university may be required to or choose to investigate an incident of sexual violence even though the survivor has chosen not to file a report or complaint.” This could include circumstances such as there being a “risk to the safety of individuals and/or the broader community; for example, where repeated allegations have been made about the conduct of the same individual” and “where there is evidence of sexual violence in the public realm (such as a video posted on social media).”
Remedies and sanctions under the policy range from mandated counselling and workshops or a letter of behavioural expectations to community service, or permanent expulsion from the university.
In their emailed response to The Eye, Ryerson wrote that they “cannot comment on the existence of complaints” and didn’t confirm how or if the university responded to students’ concerns.
Women in post-secondary disproportionately impacted by assault
According to Statistics Canada, young women in university are disproportionately impacted by sexual assault compared to the general population.
The Survey of Safety in Public and Private Spaces, a survey conducted from April to December 2018 that measured sexual assault among Canadians, found that 3 per cent of women and 1 per cent of men in the provinces were sexually assaulted in the previous year. Comparatively, the 2019 Survey on Individual Safety in the Postsecondary Student Population found that approximately one in 10 (11 per cent of) women students experienced a sexual assault in a post-secondary setting in the previous year, while almost one in seven (15 per cent of) women stated that they had been sexually assaulted in a post-secondary setting at least once during their entire time in post-secondary schooling.
The study stated that fellow students were most often the perpetrators of sexual assault and unwanted sexualized behaviour.
Instances of sexual assault and harassment are often underreported. Overall, less than one in 10 students who experienced sexual assault or unwanted sexualized behaviours spoke about what happened with someone associated with their school, such as a teacher, peer support, administration or student-led service.
The 2019 Survey on Individual Safety in the Postsecondary Student Population, which surveyed 14,882 post-secondary students aged 18 to 24 (17 to 24 in Quebec) living in Canadian provinces who currently or previously attended a Canadian post-secondary institution. The data has a 95 per cent confidence interval.
Community members who are affected by this story and/or in need of support can contact the following resources:
- Ryerson’s Office of Sexual Violence Support and Education
- Sexual Assault Centres in Ontario: Confidential and free counselling to survivors of recent and historical sexual assault throughout Ontario. Contact a centre to ask about individual or group counselling. Also provide 24-hour, confidential crisis line to reach a counsellor by phone.
- Good2Talk: 24/7 confidential helpline for post-secondary students in Ontario providing referrals about services and supports for mental health, addictions and well-being. 1-866-925-5454
- LGBT Youth Line: Provides confidential phone and text support for 2LGBTQA youth, operating Sunday – Friday 4pm – 9:30PM. Phone: 1-800-268-9688 Text: 647-692-0777
- Trans Lifeline: 24/7 Confidential hotline staffed by transgender people for transgender people. 1-877-330-6366
- Assaulted Women’s Helpline: 24-hour telephone support and counselling available in several languages. 416-863-0511
- Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape: Crisis intervention, counselling and referral for survivors of rape/sexual assault. Open 24 hours. 416-597-8808
- Women’s Support Network of York Region: Provides free, confidential services for women who have experienced sexual violence. 905-895-7313
- Support Services for Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse: Provides help for male survivors of sexual abuse, both recent and historical. Survivors also have access to a 24-hour, multilingual, toll-free phone line for immediate crisis and referral services. 1-866-887-0015
- More resources here