Vancouver broadcaster Jody Vance says she wants to see “something good” come from the years she spent fearing for her family’s safety because of one man’s relentless online harassment campaign.
Earlier this month, 53-year-old Richard Oliver pleaded guilty to criminal harassment for the violent and sexualized messages he sent to Vance, her colleagues and guests on her show.
In an interview with CBC’s Ian Hanomansing, Vance said it was a satisfying experience to face Oliver in court and deliver her victim impact statement.
“It was my day. I looked my harasser in the eyes and I told him I’m not scared of you anymore,” she said.
Oliver’s sentence was less satisfactory for Vance, who currently co-hosts a talk show on CHEK News. He received a conditional discharge, with 12 months of probation, which means that if he keeps the peace and is of good behaviour, no conviction will be entered on his record.
Vance has now filed a civil lawsuit against Oliver, seeking damages for mental suffering, defamation and invasion of privacy.
“Something good has to come from this,” Vance said. “Moving forward, maybe we change the laws, maybe we change the rules. Maybe we bring swift and meaningful consequences to everybody’s criminal harassment case.”
‘A cowardly way to vent his frustrations’
In his reasons for sentence on March 10, Provincial Court Judge Peter La Prairie describes Oliver’s emails to Vance as disturbing and misogynistic, and says they included references to her young son.
The harassment charge concerned messages sent between March 2020 and September 2021, which were largely focused on Oliver’s displeasure with Vance’s reporting on the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The communications went beyond simply views and became aggressive and threatening in nature. They refer to things such as a ‘day of reckoning,'” La Prairie wrote.
The judge said Oliver’s behaviour cannot be tolerated in a civil society.
“Sending anonymous emails of this nature represents a cowardly way to vent his frustrations on Ms. Vance who was simply carrying out her duties as a journalist,” the judge said.
The conditional discharge was the result of a joint sentencing submission from Crown and Oliver’s defence, but La Prairie said if he breaches the conditions of his parole, he could face arrest and more charges.
Vance’s notice of claim, filed in B.C. Supreme Court on March 22, quotes several emails she received from Oliver, including ominous warnings of “biblical” consequences for her reporting on COVID.
“It’s hard to overstate the level of intensity that was in each email and then there was the voracity of just sheer numbers,” Vance told CBC.
“When it started it was not highly unusual in our industry to get feedback from people, but … the anger and then harassment in these emails also escalated, so then I blocked and blocked and blocked and it got even more angry and more demanding.”
The notice of claim describes “repeated and relentless online postings of a harassing, threatening, terrorizing and intruding manner” and says Oliver copied Vance’s co-workers and friends on many of his messages. It also alleges he sought out Vance’s name online to post offensive statements about her.
She told CBC she had to display Oliver’s photo in the office of her son’s school out of fear for his safety.
“I can never get back that tender time in my son’s life,” Vance said. “I put myself at risk, being in the public eye. He didn’t sign up for that.”
Oliver has not yet been served with the claim and has not had an opportunity to file a response.
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