Man Who Assaulted Indigenous Woman at 2019 Liberal Climate Rally Identified

October 5, 2021 - Toronto, in the traditional terrritory of the Huron-Wendat, the Anishnaabeg, Haudenosaunee, Chippewas and the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation.

Vanessa Gray has filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court of Justice against the Danforth Music Hall and its security company, SecurTrust Protection, for wrongful arrest and discrimination. The case was brought after Ms. Gray was violently assaulted by an older, white-appearing man at the Liberal Climate Rally held at the Danforth Music Hall on March 4, 2019.

The assault was reported by numerous media outlets including the CBC and Global News. The man who assaulted Ms. Gray at the rally was named in the lawsuit as “John Doe” after efforts to use social media and inquiries of the Liberal Party of Canada and the venue failed to reveal his identity. Following the assault, Ms. Gray, rather than her assailant, was arrested by security and transferred into the custody of the Toronto Police. Ms. Gray was later released without charge. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau witnessed the assault from the podium where he was speaking and purportedly responded by saying “Oh boy Oh boy.”

After the event, a Liberal Party spokesperson informed the media that the assault was being reported to authorities. A freedom of information request indicated that the police have no record of such a report, however, and the Liberal Party has declined to confirm whether it carried through on what was reported to the media. The Party also declined to disclose John Doe’s identity to Ms. Gray’s lawyers though it required attendees to register for the event beforehand.

Ms. Gray’s statement of claim originally sought an order compelling the Liberal Party of Canada and the other named defendants to disclose the identity of John Doe, so that his actual name could be added to lawsuit. However, following the issuance of the statement of claim, lawyers for Robert “Al” Henderson contacted Ms. Gray’s lawyers acknowledging that their client is John Doe.

Vanessa Gray is an Anishinaabe Kwe from Aamjiwnaang First Nation. The Aamjiwnaang First Nation has long been exposed to a disproportionate level of environmental pollution, due to the large number of petroleum and chemical plants situated near their traditional territories near Sarnia, Ontario. Ms. Gray explained her experience at the rally as follows: “I attended the Liberal’s Climate Rally to stand-up against Justin Trudeau’s climate lies and Canada’s historic and ongoing intergenerational environmental violence that continues to impact my family and community on the Aamjiwnaang First Nation reservation, where petrochemicals have been processed for over 150 years. I was physically assaulted at the rally and in front of Justin Trudeau by an older white man, but I was the one who was removed from the premises by the Liberal Party’s hired security. Canada’s violence against Indigenous lands and people are directly related. Pollution has always caused an unsafe environment for me and Canada’s blatant racism has caused me further trauma and fear of white men.” She is also relieved to finally know the identity of the man who assaulted her so that he can be named and held accountable.

Ms. Gray’s lawyers are Jen Danch and Lisa Leinveer of Swadron Associates in Toronto. Ms. Danch said of the incident: “The assault and the wrongful arrest of our client silenced her crucial message of catastrophic environmental degradation in her home community. The decision to arrest Ms. Gray instead of the man who assaulted her makes no sense unless it was influenced by the fact that Ms. Gray is a young, Indigenous woman who was engaging in peaceful protest and the assailant is an older, white-appearing man.” She also noted that the Liberal Party of Canada’s apparent failure to report the assault to police, after telling the media that it would, has resulted in impunity for Mr. Henderson up to this point.

Anyone who witnessed the incident is encouraged to contact Swadron Associates at 416-362-1234.

To help pay for her legal costs in the case, Ms. Gray has created a Go Fund Me page:

For media inquiries, please contact Jen Danch at