There’s a reason to hold off on naming things after people who are still alive: Paul Haggis’ birthplace finally voted this week to strip the Oscar winner’s name off a park in his Canadian hometown, a month after he was found liable for raping a woman in New York City.
The city council in London, Ontario, voted unanimously Tuesday to rename Paul Haggis Park, which took on the name of the “Crash” writer-director in 2011.
“The sign will be removed by city staff, all reference to it will also be removed from the city website immediately,” Councillor Elizabeth Peloza said, according to CTV News. “Then the renaming of the park will go through the civic administration [process] and then it’ll be renamed.”
Calls to rename the park had been coming since 2018, after publicist Haleigh Breest filed a December 2017 lawsuit alleging Haggis raped her at his New York City apartment in 2013. The 69-year-old filmmaker filed a lawsuit right before Breest did, alleging she had asked for $9 million in “hush money” over what he said was a false rape claim about a consensual encounter. His lawsuit was thrown out in July 2018.
London’s then-Councillor Mo Salih moved to strip Haggis’ name from the recreation site in January 2018 but didn’t get support from a city committee, CBC News reported. Salih pushed again for the change later that month, but failed again.
Then before the Breest lawsuit went to trial, Haggis was arrested in Italy in June 2022 and again accused of sexual assault. He was released from house arrest more than two weeks later, and in late July a judge ordered the investigation dropped.
Haggis told La Repubblica before the judgment that he hadn’t raped anyone but did make mistakes in the situation with the woman in Italy.
“As I told the judge, my first mistake was allowing someone who I hardly knew to come and visit me. It was foolish,” he said. “The second mistake was on the last morning after an incident occurred that I personally found particularly unpleasant, I decided to end this situation; I took this person to the airport hours before her flight. I’m upset with myself for these errors in judgment but cannot comprehend that they resulted in false and damaging accusations against me.”
Peloza told TMZ in July that if Haggis lost the Breest civil suit, she would renew the push to take his name off the park — which she did, saying this week that the decision was in line with the city’s strategic goal of becoming a safe place for girls and women.
The Breest case went to trial in New York in late October and resulted in the jury holding Haggis liable for rape. He was ordered to pay $7.5 million in compensatory damages and $2.5 million in punitive damages.
Despite the civil court ruling, Haggis has not been criminally charged with raping Breest.