Michael Deeb at a special London Police Services Board meeting, December 21, 2017. (Photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn News)

Deeb Could Sue Accuser

A London principal accused of sexual harassment and abuse of power has taken the first steps toward suing the woman who levelled the allegations against him for defamation and slander.

On behalf of Michael Deeb, a formal notice of intended action pursuant to the Slander and Defamation Act was served to Najwa Zebian a few days ago. Zebian, a local poet and teacher with the Thames Valley District School Board, now has between 30 to 60 days to either apologize, retract, change, or nullify her accusations to avoid further legal action, including a defamation suit, against her.

“This isn’t something we’ve done lightly or in the last few days. We have been gathering this information for over a month because there is a lot that is out there that she has said,” Deeb’s lawyer Faisal Joseph said. “It has come to the point where we are tired of being on the defence we are going on the offence.”

Zebian first made the accusations against Deeb, a principal at H.B. Beal Secondary School, in a Facebook post last December. She stated that Deeb abused his powerful position when she was launching her teaching career, pursued a personal relationship with her, and borrowed money from her. The timeline of the alleged harassment is unclear but appears to date back to 2013.

In that same lengthy post, Zebian also admitted to “developing a strong emotional attachment and dependency” of Deeb over time, even handwriting him a “deeply emotional” letter that she now feels shame about.

Joseph said Deeb denies the allegations against him.

But in the wake of the accusations, Deeb was forced to step down as vice-chair of the London Police Services Board while the Ontario Civilian Police Commission investigates. He has also taken a leave of absence from his position with the Thames Valley District School Board.

“It’s been very very difficult for him because he can’t combat this. He hasn’t been charged with anything, there is no civil suit that she has brought. It is just in the media. So how do you combat this? It is not the court of law, it is the court of public opinion,” said Joseph.

Zebian has a strong social media presence with roughly 700,000 followers on Instagram and over 62,500 followers on Twitter. Some of her writings have also been published in the New York Times. She is scheduled to speak to a crowd of 700 people at the London Abused Women’s Centre 18th Annual International Women’s Day Breakfast on Friday morning.

“I do have a ticket but we will see whether I attend. I don’t want to disrupt the proceedings,” said Joseph. “But there will be people in the audience, including women, that will be taking copious notes to see if we will be adding it to our formal notice of defamation and slander.”

The Huffington Post, which published stories about the accusations against Deeb by Zebian and a second woman, has also been served with a formal notice of intended action pursuant to the Slander and Defamation Act.

“I am sincerely hopeful and pray that all aggrieved women with legitimate, and I emphasis legitimate, sexual harassment or assault complaints get real justice and continue to speak up and speak up loudly,” said Joseph. “But I also equally wish that those with illegitimate or fake complaints get justice as well for what they’ve done to innocent people and their reputations.”

Blackburn News has reached out to Zebian’s lawyer for comment but at the time of publication had not received a response.