Premier Lorne Calvert has agreed to a meeting with the members of the Klassen and Kvello families who were maliciously prosecuted by justice officials in the early 1990s.
It's unclear when the meeting will take place but it will be in Saskatoon, said Robert Borden, the lawyer for most of the plaintiffs. Borden had requested a meeting with Calvert last week when he met with Justice Minister Frank Quennell.
"This is wonderful news. We don't want anyone else to go through this," Borden said Thursday afternoon.
The Klassens and Kvellos were maliciously prosecuted by therapist Carol Bunko-Ruys, Saskatoon police officer Brian Dueck, and Crown prosecutor Matthew Miazga, a Queen's Bench justice ruled in December.
The 12 successful plaintiffs — two of them have since died — were charged with abusing three foster children in the early 1990s.
The charges were eventually stayed, but the plaintiffs say there was never enough evidence to proceed against them in the first place. All three children have since admitted that they lied, and that none of the 12 plaintiffs ever abused them.
All three defendants have appealed. Quennell has said the appeal is simply to clarify legal issues, and he doesn't dispute the group's innocence.
Borden said he and his clients won't discuss specific compensation numbers with Calvert. Rather, they will tell him how their lives have been affected by the case and how they think the justice system needs to change.
A spokesperson for the premier confirmed the meeting will take place. He said Calvert cannot meet with everyone who asks, but he realizes this is a unique situation. The premier will not have any specific proposals or offers, and is prepared to listen, the spokesperson said.
Richard Klassen, the only plaintiff who represented himself in the lawsuit, said he'll press his proposal for compensation at the meeting.
He is vowing to hold another sit-in in the foyer of the legislative building starting Monday if his proposal is not accepted by then.
He's asking for $1.1M in compensation for himself and $780,000 for his wife Kari.
"I'm not interested in helping (Calvert) politically, unless he does the right thing," Klassen said.
Also Thursday, the Saskatchewan Party set out its proposal for the resolution of this case and the similar, but separate, malicious prosecution case stemming from the Martensville sex abuse case.
The Sterling family of Martensville and several others were charged with child abuse in the early 1990s. All of them except for son Travis Sterling were found not guilty in a high profile trial. Many of those accused are now suing.
The Martensville lawsuits are still at least several months away from trial, although one of those falsely accused — police officer John Popowich — received $1.3M in an out-of-court settlement.
The first step is for all sides to drop all legal action, Sask. Party Justice critic Don Morgan suggested.
A retired judge would be chosen to decide on compensation amounts for plaintiffs in both cases. That decision would be binding.
There would also be an expert panel of justice officials, likely from outside the province, convened to clarify the roles of police, prosecutors, and others in child abuse cases such as these.
Morgan said this would save time for everyone involved.
"These people were totally innocent and were charged. These people were wronged by our system," Morgan said.
"We want to do everything we can to restore their life and their dignity."
Borden said the proposal sounds "reasonable," and he might be interested in pursuing the plan if the conditions were right.
Richard Klassen will ask for $1.1 million in damages for being maliciously prosecuted on false child abuse allegations in the early 1990s, while some of the other 11 plaintiffs say they'd accept a minimum of $780,000.
The figures were suggested by the family during meetings in Saskatoon on Monday with Justice Minister Frank Quennell.
Although Quennell would not admit the prosecution of the family was malicious, he did apologize, and expressed his sympathy for what they went through.
"This government, this minister of justice have provided an apology that my clients do accept," said Robert Borden, the lawyer representing all of the plaintiffs except Richard Klassen.
"So begins the healing process."
Quennell held two long-awaited meetings with the family: One with Richard Klassen, his wife Kari, his brother Dale and Richard's assistant Angie Geworsky. The second meeting was with Borden, Richard's sister Pam Shetterly and Dianne Kvello, a distant relative.
Borden said Quennell listened to them for 15 minutes and offered a sincere apology on behalf of the government.
After the meeting, Dale Klassen said he and his wife, Anita, would take $780,000 each as payment for the pain and suffering caused by the malicious prosecution.
"Our family has been through a lot. We need closure," Dale said.
"We want out. Thirteen years is a long time."
Borden declined to say how much his clients deserve, but said he'd be citing precedents that have netted other victims millions of dollars each, such as the David Milgaard, Guy Paul Morin and John Popowich settlements.
Milgaard, for example, got a $10-million settlement from the provincial government several years ago for his wrongful murder conviction. Milgaard spent more than 20 years in jail before he was exonerated by DNA evidence.
The Klassen lawsuit says the plaintiffs sought damages in excess of $10 million. Borden said that's still accurate.
Quennell said it's too early to comment on the figures thrown out by Richard Klassen and the others, but hopes the two sides can work out a solution that will avoid the six-week damages trial scheduled for September.
Quennell added he was glad he could meet some more of the plaintiffs face to face and apologize.
"I was particularly sorry for what happened to their children. I can only imagine what it would be like," Quennell said.
Borden said his clients eventually want apologies from the three officials who prosecuted them — therapist Carol Bunko-Ruys, Saskatoon police officer Brian Dueck and Crown prosecutor Matt Miazga (right). But the apology from Quennell was "nevertheless cathartic" for his clients, he said.
Richard Klassen said it's fine for Quennell to apologize, but agreed what's really needed is an apology from the three individuals who wronged them.
Twelve members of the family were charged in 1991 with sexually abusing Dale and Anita Klassen's three foster children. By 1993, most of the charges had been stayed, and as the years passed, the children came forward to admit they had made the whole thing up.
The Klassens sued officials for malicious prosecution, and in a ruling released late last year, Justice George Baynton agreed that Bunko-Ruys, Dueck and Miazga had acted maliciously.
The provincial government has appealed that ruling, as has Dueck through his lawyer. The appeal cannot be heard until the issue of damages has been resolved.
Regina - A Saskatchewan family maliciously prosecuted as sadistic child abusers more than a dozen years ago is receiving $1.5-million from the provincial government.
The money is being given out, not as a settlement, but as an interim payment to help the Klassen family while the province appeals the case.
"It is an amount that we are accepting for some of the pain and suffering that has occurred and certainly legal fees," said Richard Klassen, the man who spearheaded a successful lawsuit against investigators.
Justice Minister Frank Quennell was expected to speak to the matter at a news conference Thursday afternoon.
The 12 members of the Klassen family were charged in 1991 with abusing three foster children - a brother and his younger twin sisters - in bizarre and demonic ways.
The children said they were forced to eat eyeballs, drink blood, participate in orgies and watch newborn babies get skinned and buried.
By 1993, however, most of the charges were stayed to avoid further trauma to the children and, as the years passed, they came forward and recanted their accusations.
From the beginning, the Klassens have been embroiled in a public battle to clear their names.
It culminated in December when a judge ruled that a Crown prosecutor, a child therapist and a police officer were malicious in their pursuit of the case.
The provincial government, representing the Crown and the therapist, as well as the officer are appealing the decision.
The province maintains the judgment stretches the boundaries of malicious prosecution too far and it is in the best interest of the public to have the courts clarify the law.
Both sides have acknowledged that the battle is likely to end up in the Supreme Court, which could take years.
The malicious prosecution ruling did not come with a dollar figure for compensation. That is to be determined in another court process set to begin in September.
Both sides have indicated that they are willing to negotiate some sort of agreement that will avert that process.
Mr. Klassen and the justice minister are scheduled to meet next week.
An advance payment of $1.5 million has been made by the Saskatchewan government to members of the Klassen family who were falsely accused of abusing foster children more than a dozen years ago.
The money will be split amongst 12 members of the family, who were asking for $10 million in damages. It is not a settlement, however.
"It is an amount that we are accepting for some of the pain and suffering that has occurred and certainly legal fees," Richard Klassen, the man who spearheaded a successful lawsuit, told The Canadian Press.
The 12 Klassen members were charge in 1991 with the sexual abuse of three foster children, in
Klassen and 11 others were charged in 1991 with ritualistically abusing foster children — allegedly forcing them to eat eyeballs, drink blood, participate in orgies and watch newborn babies get skinned and buried.
Klassen, who is currently on welfare, said he will use the money to pay back his in-laws and replace his 1982 Chevrolet.
The family recently won a malicious prosecution judgment in December against three civil servants involved in the case — a Saskatoon police officer, a Crown prosecutor and a child therapist.
While Saskatoon's police chief has apologized for his department's role in any suffering by those who were wrongfully accused, the province didn't follow suit.
The province has launched an appeal of the judge's decision. It feels the judgment excessively widens the boundaries of what can be considered malicious prosecution.
It's likely the issue will eventually wind up in the Supreme Court of Canada, both sides have said.
Klassen and provincial Justice Minister Frank Quennell are scheduled to meet next week.
Charges in the case were laid in 1991, although the story began in 1987.
The three children, a boy and two girls, were placed in a foster home.
The boy was removed from the foster home for being emotionally and physically abusive to his sisters.
In an attempt to get back into the home, he told police about abuse suffered at the hands of the family. And his sisters backed up their brother's story.
The three claimed they were forced to drink blood, participate in orgies and other ritualistic activities.
Most charges were stayed by 1993, supposedly to reduce the trauma to the children. The children, now adults, have recanted their stories.
Richard Klassen is doing two things with his share of the $1.5-million government payout given to him and the other 11 malicious prosecution victims — buy a new car and pay back his relatives.
"It's not a lot of money, when you consider (the total legal expenses and debts). I won't have a lot of money left over, but it's a start," Klassen said in a telephone interview as he drove home to Outlook from Regina Thursday.
The payment "provides some relief" for the plaintiffs but much more needs to be done, said Robert Borden, the lawyer for the 11 other plaintiffs.
"Sadly, it's not the apology and (full) compensation my clients deserve."
Klassen and Borden collected the $1.5-million cheque from Justice Department lawyer Don McKillop Thursday afternoon in Regina.
Richard Klassen and the others — most of them extended family members — won their malicious prosecution lawsuit against Saskatoon police officer Brian Dueck, Crown prosecutor Matt Miazga and therapist Carol Bunko-Ruys last December. They were charged and prosecuted on false child abuse allegations in the early 1990s.
The lawsuit was seeking damages of more than $10 million, and that issue will be decided at a trial later this year.
The provincial government has also appealed the case.
"We need clarification on the law, and the only way to obtain that is to appeal the judgment," said Justice Minister Frank Quennell.
"The appeal does not call into question the innocence of the Klassen and Kvello families."
The $1.5-million payment Thursday was not an admission of liability, stressed Quennell.
The money is "in recognition of Justice George Baynton's declaration that the plaintiffs are innocent, and of the pain and suffering and expense resulting from the prosecution and civil action," Quennell stated.
If the government wins its appeal of the lawsuit, it won't seek to claw back the $1.5 million it paid today, Quennell said.
When asked where the $1.5 million figure came from, Quennell said that's what the plaintiffs requested, and it "seemed to be a reasonable and just amount."
He said there's a small risk the Court of Appeal will see this payment as an admission of liability, but he hopes that's not the case.
Quennell said he's encouraging his officials to try to come to an agreement on damages so that everyone can be spared the damages trial this September.
Klassen, Borden, and others are meeting with Quennell on Monday to discuss issues around the case.
Klassen said he's accumulated more than $300,000 in legal and travel expenses since the ordeal began, and can't wait to pay back those who have helped him.
Wife Kari Klassen's parents have provided the bulk of the funds, and Klassen says he's grateful.
She said she'll buy some new clothes, while Klassen was expected to pick up his 2004 Buick Park Avenue Ultra tonight after buying it from the local dealership.
Also Thursday, Klassen and Borden agreed to drop an appeal of their claims against the late Richard Quinney, who was director of Saskatchewan Justice at the time, and Crown prosecutor Sonja Hansen.
Quinney's estate and Hansen have in turn agreed not to appeal the dismissal of their libel suit against Klassen.
Crown prosecutor Matthew Miazga, one of those found liable for malicious prosecution, will continue to pursue the libel action against Klassen.
An announcement is expected today of interim payments for the 12 people maliciously prosecuted for child abuse in the early 1990s, the Saskatchewan News Network has learned.
Talks have been ongoing for several days between provincial Justice Department officials and the plaintiffs in the malicious prosecution lawsuit that concluded last December.
Those talks have now concluded, and an agreement on interim payments to the plaintiffs is expected today, plaintiff Richard Klassen said when contacted Wednesday evening.
"I'm satisfied. The talks went very well," Klassen said.
It's unclear how much each plaintiff will receive if there is a payment, or whether any conditions are attached.
Justice Department lawyer Don McKillop said it's his "expectation" that a deal will be announced today.
"I'm anticipating tomorrow there will be an agreement reached," McKillop said in an interview Wednesday evening.
However, he said the discussions "are ongoing and there isn't a deal."
McKillop was one of the officials directly discussing the issue with the plaintiffs.
Klassen, his wife, and 10 others won their malicious prosecution lawsuit against Saskatoon police officer Brian Dueck, Crown prosecutor Matthew Miazga and therapist Carol Bunko-Ruys in December.
Three foster children fabricated wild stories of repeated abuse suffered at the hands of the 12 people.
The allegations proved false, and the children later recanted.
The lawsuit claimed that the officials should have known there was no truth to the allegations, and that the prosecution and charges never should have occurred.
Justice George Baynton agreed in a scathing decision.
The government has appealed the ruling.
REGINA -The government is expected to hand a cheque to a dozen members of a family wrongly accused of sexually abusing foster children nearly 16 years ago.
Richard Klassen says talks with the province's justice minister have gone well. A judge urged the government to negotiate damages despite a pending appeal of a December judgement that found prosecutors, police and a child therapist guilty of maliciously prosecuting members of the Klassen family.
Initially, Justice Minister Frank Quennell and government lawyer Don McKillop were trying to get the damages delayed until the appeal is heard.
Klassen aggressively pursued the government and eventually won a meeting with justice officials. They have been negotiating the last few days.
The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix says an interim payment will be announced on Thursday.
Richard Klassen has been battling cancer and a stress-related drug addiction. His family have been forced to live on social assistance.
The Klassens are planning to leave Saskatoon as soon a they get enough money. They are preparing for an appeal, expected to take place next September.
Earlier this week, two top members of Frank Quennell's constituency office resigned in disgust over the way the Klassens have been treated by the Justice Department.
A sit-in turned into a sit-down Monday, as a couple maliciously prosecuted for child abuse finally won an audience with the province's Justice Minister.
"I hope that we can come to some fair agreements here so we can move on, we need to move on, we have to," said Kari Klassen, after meeting briefly with Saskatchewan Justice Minister Frank Quennell Monday afternoon. "It's been 13 years, it's long enough."
Klassen, her husband Richard, and a dozen of their family members were wrongly accused of sexually abusing three foster children in the early 1990s, with allegations that included satanic ritual abuse and claims the children had been forced to eat feces and drink urine.
In December, Justice George Baynton ruled that the victims were maliciously prosecuted by a Crown prosecutor, a Saskatoon police officer and a therapist, all of whom are appealing the case.
Citing distrust of the government, Richard said last week that Kari and the couple's two children would stage a sit-in in the lobby of the Regina legislature Monday morning while he met with justice officials in Saskatoon. The Klassens have been looking for an apology and compensation from the government.
The sit-in was averted when Kari met with Community Resources and Employment Minister Joanne Crofford Monday morning, and then with Quennell later in the afternoon. Though Quennell admitted it's "unusual and probably not good practice" for the attourney general to meet with plaintiffs in a court action, he said he made an exception in this case.
After a brief meeting — with Richard on the speaker phone from Saskatoon — another meeting was set for next Monday in Saskatoon where Quennell, the Klassens and the lawyer for the other victims of the malicious prosecution will sit down again.
Richard Klassen has long sought an audience with the Justice Minister, once even camping out on the grounds of the legislature. Quennell, who took over the position after last fall's election, says Monday's meeting will be a chance for Richard to talk about the impact of the malicious persecution.
"I want Mr. Klassen to have an opportunity to tell me how this has affected him personally, he feels very strongly that he needs that opportunity and I want to give it to him," he said.
Quennell said government could consider two different kinds of payments; an assistance payment to help the family on the short term and some sort of long-term damage settlement.
Kari Klassen told media Monday she would like to see $120,000 as an interim payment, though no numbers have been discussed so far.
There is a six-week trial set for September to determine the damages. The plaintiffs are seeking more than $10 million.
Kari said she was pleased with the outcome of Monday's meeting, and is looking ahead to next week, and a swift conclusion to a lengthy battle.
"It's going forward and let's hope it keeps on going and not for another two years or a year or six months, because six months is too long," she said.
Two of Frank Quennell's constituency workers have resigned, to protest the way the provincial justice minister has handled the Klassen malicious prosecution lawsuit.
Anne Smart and her husband Larry Mullen handed in resignations last month because they were unhappy Quennell supported the decision to appeal a ruling in favour of the Klassen family. The couple, who had been on Quennell's executive board, said Quennell appears to be "circling the wagons" and protecting government employees but not Saskatchewan residents.
"People believe that the Klassens deserve better treatment and justice needs to be seen to be done as well as be done," said Smart, a former NDP MLA for Saskatoon Centre.
The Klassens successfully sued Crown prosecutor Matt Miazga, therapist Carol Bunko-Ruys and Saskatoon Police officer Brian Dueck for malicious prosecution stemming from allegations of sexual abuse that later turned out to be false.
In his Dec. 30 ruling, Justice George Baynton said the family suffered a "travesty of justice" and should receive compensation and an apology.
One week later, government lawyer Don McKillop announced his intention to appeal on the judgment. Bunko-Ruys and Miazga filed their appeals on Tuesday. Quennell told reporters last month that although the government wasn't a direct party to the suit, he backed the decision to appeal because he had faith in the prosecutors. Quennell, a Saskatoon lawyer, said he had appeared in court opposite Miazga and had faith in the way Miazga does his job.
Those comments sound disturbingly like cronyism, said Smart.
"The minister of justice can't make comments like that. He has to be more impartial," said Smart.
"There's no room for cronyism in a decision that's as serious as a response to the Klassen trial report."
Reached Tuesday afternoon, Quennell said it was unfortunate that Smart and Mullen felt they needed to resign.
He denied any allegation of cronyism, blaming media reports for the misconception that Miazga and Quennell had ever had any personal dealings.
"I've never even had lunch with him," Quennell said.
Smart said people are becoming cynical about the justice system and may feel that their rights will be ignored by the government.
"The department of justice is accountable to the people of the province, not just the employees in the Crown prosecutors' office," she said.
When asked if he was worried about growing public cynicism, Quennell said he hoped that would not be an issue.
"I hope that when this matter is resolved that it will be resolved to the satisfaction of the public of Saskatchewan."
REGINA -Two of the justice minister's supporters have quit party positions over their candidate's handling of a malicious prosecution case.
Anne Smart and Larry Mullen both resigned from the executive of Frank Quennell's constituency association, saying they are disappointed with the way a dozen people have been treated by the justice minister after a judge ruled they were maliciously prosecuted over false allegations of sexual abuse.
RELATED STORY: Klassens to meet gov't on settlement options
Smart is disappointed Quennell refused to apologize to the Klassen family and equally upset the government is refusing to pay out compensation. The Klassens are seeking $10 million in damages.
She says Quennell missed a chance to show compassion when he decided to support the appeal.
"I think this was a golden opportunity to take the high road," he said. "and to really show what it means to stand up for things that are just, rather than what's been decided."
Larry Mullen admits that the justice minister seems ready to consider a pay out now, but Mullen says it's unfortunate it took public pressure to bring that about.
Matt Miazga and Carol Bunko-Ruys have officially appealed a judgment finding them liable for malicious prosecution of the Klassen family.
In documents filed Tuesday by provincial government lawyer Don McKillop, the prosecutor and therapist state they are appealing Justice George Baynton's Dec. 30 judgment in favour of Richard Klassen and 11 of his family members. Baynton said Miazga and Bunko-Ruys, along with Saskatoon Police Supt. Brian Dueck, had pursued convictions of sexual abuse against the family without reasonable grounds.
Miazga and Bunko-Ruys are appealing the ruling of malicious prosecution because they say Baynton erred when ruling in favour of the Klassens and "drew inferences of fact which in light of the evidence are unreasonable." Furthermore, the appeal states that Bunko-Ruys, who interviewed foster children who alleged abuse at the hands of the Klassens, was not instrumental in the decision to charge the Klassen family.
The appeal document asks that appeal court reverse Baynton's decision by dismissing the claims against Miazga and Bunko-Ruys. An appeal date will not be set until after a compensation trial, set for September.
Dueck has not appealed, contrary to information in a story in Monday's StarPhoenix.
Richard Klassen and other malicious prosecution victims will get the meeting they demanded with provincial Justice Department officials Monday, but Klassen says he's going ahead with a planned sit-in at the legislature in Regina on Monday anyway.
The meeting will be held at a secret location in Saskatoon because the government doesn't want the media to attend, Klassen said.
"We don't know where it's at yet, (but) I'm going to notify everyone where it is," Klassen said Friday afternoon.
Klassen and 11 other members of the Klassen and Kvello families were wrongly accused of abusing three foster children in the early 1990s. Justice George Baynton ruled in December that they were maliciously prosecuted by three officials.
Lawyers for the three officials — Crown prosecutor Matthew Miazga, Saskatoon Police Services Supt. Brian Dueck, and therapist Carol Bunko-Ruys — are appealing the case. They're also appealing Justice Baynton's dismissal of a countersuit against Richard Klassen for libel.
Justice Minister Frank Quennell said the decision to appeal was not taken lightly, and he doesn't want the Klassen and Kvello families to suffer any more than they already have.
However, Quennell said the meeting will not include an apology, nor will it be held to discuss compensation amounts.
That doesn't sit well with Klassen.
"I don't trust this government. (Quennell) is trying to convince everyone he feels sorry for us," Klassen said.
"We won. The evidence is so clear. I'm not waiting another two years (for an apology and compensation)."
Klassen said Quennell should attend the meeting personally, not send his officials.
Klassen's wife, Kari, and his children will travel from their Outlook home to Regina and camp out in the foyer of the provincial legislature at 10 a.m. Monday, Klassen said.
If the meeting in Saskatoon does not address compensation and an apology, Klassen will drive down to Regina immediately and join them.
"I don't trust this government. We'll sit there every day," he said.
Two of the other malicious prosecution victims — Klassen's sister, Pam Shetterly, and Diane Kvello — will likely attend the meeting, as well, Klassen said.
Klassen and the other falsely accused are seeking damages in excess of $10 million. A six-week trial to determine the exact figure is scheduled for this September.
REGINA — The trial to decide compensation amounts for Richard Klassen and 11 other malicious prosecution victims will proceed as planned in September, after the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal rejected the provincial government's attempt to delay matters.
Klassen, representing himself, and lawyer Robert Borden, who represented the other 11 victims, declared another victory, but said they'll continue to press for some or all of their compensation in the interim.
"I'd like to end it. Let me out of here," Klassen said in Regina following the afternoon hearing at the courthouse.
"Let's get paid out and get out of here."
Government lawyer Don McKillop, who represents prosecutor Matthew Miazga and therapist Carol Bunko-Ruys, wanted an adjournment to the six-week compensation trial, scheduled for Sept. 13. He said the appeal launched by the government and by David Gerrand, who represents police officer Brian Dueck, should be heard first.
That would require a delay in the compensation hearing, because the transcript from the malicious prosecution trial has not yet been typed.
Court of Appeal Justice Cal Tallis turned down McKillop's motion, and ordered the September hearing to proceed as planned.
"Mr. McKillop has not persuaded me that I should stay the Queen's Bench proceedings," Tallis said.
"I don't think it would be appropriate."
In other minor motions heard Thursday, Tallis granted one-week extensions to various parties seeking to file appeals or other motions.
Also Thursday afternoon, Justice Minister Frank Quennell told reporters he'd instructed his officials to arrange a meeting with Klassen and Borden.
He said officials will welcome proposals, but the meeting is not to discuss compensation or to apologize. Quennell said he didn't take lightly the decision to appeal the case, given the impact it has on various parties.
"I have no interest in making life more difficult for the Klassen and Kvello families," Quennell said.
But now that the appeal is launched, he doesn't want to do anything that would jeopardize that appeal or admit wrongdoing by any government officials.
However, Klassen and Borden say an apology and immediate compensation talks are exactly what's needed.
Klassen had threatened to conduct a sit-in at the legislature Monday if a meeting was not arranged, and vowed to follow through if the meeting is not held by Monday.
Klassen and more than a dozen of his immediate and extended family members were wrongly accused of sexually abusing three foster children in the early 1990s. The bizarre allegations included detailed accounts of satanic ritual abuse, which included animal and human sacrifice, as well as claims the children had been forced to eat feces and drink urine.
Queen's Bench Justice George Baynton ruled in December that Miazga, Bunko-Ruys, and Dueck maliciously prosecuted them.
The parties will meet in court again in September to decide a compensation amount. The lawsuit is seeking in excess of $10 million.
SASKATOON - Despite offers by Justice Minister Frank Quennell to meet with representatives of a dozen people found to have been treated maliciously by police, prosecutors and a therapist, Richard Klassen says he can't get an appointment on the matter.
Richard Klassen has been fighting the allegations for 16 years Klassen and eleven other people from his family won a malicious prosecution suit seeking $10 million in damages for what a judge called the malicious prosecution of people for allegations that were later shown to be false.
A government lawyer is seeking an appeal on that decision, but a judge ruled recently that the government must start negotiating to pay at least some compensation even before an appeal ruling is considered.
The Saskatchewan Party's justice critic Don Morgan says he won't let the compensation issue rest.
"We intend to press it as many ways as we possibly can, from now until it's resolved," Morgan said.
Quennell told CBC's As It Happens that the Klassens have been through enough, saying he is open to discussions with them.
"About what we can do to address the fact that they were innocent and have gone through this ordeal," Quennell said. "They have made suggestions or proposals in the press. I have invited them to make those directly to us so we can have those kinds of discussions."
However, Klassen says he hasn't been able to get a meeting, saying the Justice Minister's office continues referring him to the government lawyer Don McKillop, the lawyer mounting the appeal.
McKillop says he's too busy getting ready to make his appeal arguments to meet with Klassen.
Re: Work to end perceptions of two-tier justice (SP, Jan. 19), in which Carla Ledoux suggests that the justice system is riddled with racism and that all cases of injustice are race-based.
As a plaintiff in the "Klassen case" I would like to respond that this is simply not true. The injustice in our case was all too similar to many others, and I'd be the last to claim that we were charged just because some of us were foster parents.
We were charged because the justice system was in disarray and still is. It became apparent when I set out to clear my family's name. I discovered many instances where people were improperly and unfairly prosecuted because they were vulnerable and unable to defend themselves properly.
Saskatchewan Justice refuses to apologize to the Klassen family and insists the prosecutors did nothing wrong. The department is colour blind when it comes to digging in its heels to preserve its privilege.
We should stop blaming the media for not giving proper coverage to justice issues and welcome the coverage that has been coming. The more pressure that is put on justice officials to toe the line for all people, the better it will be for all of us. This is where we must focus our concerns.
There has been plenty of media coverage of the facts that have come to light in the Stonechild inquest. I am happy that the proceedings are open to the public and reported across the country.
I would also remind the readers that while the Stonechild inquiry is publicly funded, the Klassen civil trial is being paid for out of the plaintiffs' pockets. In both these proceedings flaws and arrogant attitudes by justice officials are being revealed and reported. Everyone in the community receives the benefit of these revelations.
I agree with Ledoux that it is important for all of us to work together. A victory for any one of us is a victory for all.
Scheduled for this September
The photograph said it all.
Staring glassy eyed at the camera, ferocious-looking by any standard, and with a 25-year history of sexual offences against women, William Beardy's "high risk offender" status seemed more than justified, as was the release last month by city police of his name, photograph and the fact that he was in Saskatoon.
Police also released a list of "peace bond" conditions by which Beardy was to abide, and asked to be alerted if he was seen violating any of them. Within days of this disclosure, Beardy allegedly committed a minor assault in the Salvation Army hostel, and before you could say "due process," he was back inside.
It's true that Beardy isn't someone you'd want as your next-door neighbour. But that doesn't mean his treatment was fair.
Beardy was released without conditions from the Saskatchewan Penitentiary in Prince Albert on Oct. 14, after serving his entire six-year term for sexual assault and forcible confinement. Probably because he didn't participate in therapy sessions, Beardy didn't get statutory release after serving two-thirds of his sentence.
A day after his release, persons unknown (possibly the police or a provincial parole officer) applied to court in P.A. for a so-called high risk peace bond under section 810.2 of the Criminal Code. This provision allows anyone with reasonable grounds to fear that another will commit a serious personal injury offence to seek a court order requiring that person to enter into a recognizance to keep the peace.
The list of conditions Beardy was asked to observe was extensive and certainly cut him no slack: stay indoors from 11 p.m. until 7 a.m.; stay away from alcohol, drugs, bars and liquor stores; have no contact with anyone under 18; abstain from relationships, even non-sexual ones, with women unless they know about his past; not own a knife, unless for the purpose of preparing or eating food; and generally keep the peace.
The order, which lasts for one year but can be renewed indefinitely, seems a punishment without limit. It's also an invitation for people to cause trouble for the offender.
When section 810.2 was first proposed as an amendment to the Criminal Code, the Criminal Lawyers' Association protested that it offended section 7 of the Charter. Unlike other recognizance orders, which address the specific fears of a named individual (like a wife asking that an estranged husband stay away from her home), section 810.2 is wide-ranging.
It doesn't require that a potential victim be named. It's designed instead to address non-specific fears of the police that a serious crime might be committed against unknown persons at an unknown time and place.
Lawyers suggest lists of conditions like those imposed on Beardy would not withstand a court challenge, but persons subject to such orders are usually poor and uneducated, and lack the resources to mount an appeal.
But there was more in store for Beardy.
He fled to Saskatoon after police in Manitoba, where he'd headed after jail, released his name and photograph to the public. When Saskatoon police learned that Beardy was in the city, they applied to the Public Disclosure Committee in Regina to ask that Beardy's details be made public here too.
The committee was formed in 1996 as a result of the Public Disclosure Act. The police can apply to the committee for "advice" about making an offender's details public.
The offender is not allowed to know the names of the committee members and isn't allowed to appear before them. He may send in a statement in his own defence, but because he hasn't been charged with a criminal offence, he can't get Legal Aid. So he's left to compile his statement on his own, with no lawyer, no money, and possibly no reading or writing skills.
There is no appeals process, and the police and committee members are immune from any legal action the offender might later try to pursue against them.
All that's known about the committee is that, of its nine members, three are police officers, along with a retired judge, victims' services worker and a lawyer. A clergy member, psychologist and First Nations healer round out the list. Six have been on the committee since it was formed seven years ago, during which time they've approved 17 out of 22 disclosure applications.
There's little doubt that Beardy's life is now ruined. With his name and photograph appearing on Internet websites as a high risk sex offender, his chance of ever securing stable employment and a safe place to live are close to zero.
Many would argue that's his own fault. Others would say his life was ruined long before he reached adulthood. Beardy attended the infamous Gordon's residential school, and has a claim outstanding against the government for the treatment he suffered there.
With Canadians so critical of American judicial abuses at Guantanamo Bay, and with the Saskatchewan judicial system under such well-deserved scrutiny following the Klassen ruling, this is a good time to re-examine the Public Disclosure Act and its workings.
The lesson of the Klassen case is that miscarriages of justice can happen to anyone.
No one in Canada, no matter what their criminal past, should be judged by anonymous, unelected, quasi-judicial committees with the power to destroy lives.