The Internet, the courts, now the movies! We will continue to do what it takes to explain to the public why they have a right to know and why they need to know about what has been going on in our justice system
Richard Klassen is not the first falsely accused person to have been vindicated by the justice system. In fact, he has not yet been completely vindicated as Saskatchewan Justice appeals Judge Baynton's findings of malicious prosecution against those who manufactured from the cobbled words of damaged children a case which was designed to put nineteen people behind bars for a very long time.
Klassen, along with his wife and two of his brothers and their wives, spent six nights in custody. The parents and step-father of the Ross children spent real time in prison until they were freed by the Supreme Court of Canada. As you can read on this website, many people were profoundly damaged as a result of being charged and indicted for sex crimes against children.
Without exception, those Canadians who have had their names cleared after being convicted of serious crimes (mostly murder and rape) have retreated to private life.
Richard Klassen has chosen to continue to make himself available to reporters.
From the beginning, Richard Klassen has been motivated by a desire to expand the public's right to know what is going on in the Justice system, the police services, and Social Services. We had to break non-publication orders by launching this website and getting the story to the public. The Saskatchewan government and Saskatoon Police have spared no effort to shut us up. Klassen and I were arrested and charged with defaming Dueck and placed under gag orders which effectively shut us up from 1994 to 1996. In 1998, we launched this website and there were many efforts to shut us down. In 2001, when Klassen took over his own representation in the civil suit he launched in 1994, the defendants in the suit started a blizzard of activity and motions to have him struck from the suit. Part of their allegation was that Klassen had violated the rules of court in order by making some of the evidence public.
They came very close to shutting Klassen up and in order for him to continue, he agreed to sever connections with this website and to stop providing me with access to any of the pretrial proceedings.
By the time the case came to trial in September, 2003, the media was ready to take full advantage of its opportunity to publish the evidence as it unfolded in court. Klassen's victory in the lawsuit was front page news across the country.
The aftermath of that victory has been bitter-sweet. Crown prosecutor Matthew Miazga, therapist Carol Bunko-Ruys and cop Brian Dueck have all appealed Judge Baynton's findings. In the three months since the decision came down, the spin doctors in the legal community have tried to promote the notion that the findings of malice are erroneous: Even the Dean of Law at the University of Saskatchewan law school has publicly said — in typically opaque language — that Klassen and Baynton and the public at large just don't understand the concept of malice and this requires clarification from an appeal court to set all us deluded people straight. They go on to play on the legitimate fears of people that sexual crimes against children will not be properly investigated or prosecuted if this judgment is allowed to stand.
This is hogwash, of course.
The whole point of the judgment was that the investigation was not properly done and the prosecution violated the ethical duties of prosecutors.
We have accomplished the first stage of an important public education exercise.
Last week, when it was revealed that the law firm of Priel, Stevenson, Hood and Thornton had accepted Carol Bunko-Ruys as a client at the same time they were hired by the Saskatoon Police Service to investigate possible violations of the police act by Dueck, a spokesman from that firm whined to several media reporters that this was not the sort of thing to be discussed in the public forum. The firm suggested that it was up to the Law Society to determine if there was a conflict.
This is exactly the kind of information that belongs in the public forum. The quiet and sneaky actions of lawyers form the basic underpinnings of every case where innocent people are falsely charged and convicted. The Stinchcombe case made clear in 1991 exactly what prosecutors were required to disclose to the defence. Earlier than that, in 1954, Mr. Justice Rand had stated:
The role of prosecutor excludes any notion of winning or losing; his function is a matter of public duty than which in civil life there can be none charged with greater personal responsibility. It is to be performed with an ingrained sense of the dignity, the seriousness and the justness of the judicial proceedings.
Jeremy Bentham has also been often quoted:
In the darkness of secrecy, sinister interest and evil in every shape have full swing. Only in proportion as publicity has place, can any of the checks applicable to judicial injustice operate. Where there is no publicity there is no justice.
It was in this spirit that Saskatoon Court of Queen's Bench provided unprecedented media access to a Saskatchewan civil trial and Judge Baynton took the time to make sure that the media had the widest possible access to all the documents and testimony.
The judge with the reputation for dotting his "i"s and crossing his "t"s dotted and crossed in the public interest.
Lawyers defending Saskatchewan Justice and the Saskatoon Police have now set about to promote the idea that the public has been privy to information which is really none of its business. Some, like Ish, suggest the public is really too stupid to understand. The public must be protected from itself and the media should stop taking an interest in matters that are really not their job to investigate.
Trust us, say the lawyers.
Why should we?
Robert Borden, in an interview for Sarah Gibb's week-end feature Another Family Destroyed, carries on with the idea that court-issued publication bans are necessary in some cases, although because of the specifics in this case, the ban was damaging.
Since 1998 I have said and I will say it again today:
There is absolutely no reason for banning publication or sealing the testimony of any case before the criminal court. (Family court is another question which I will deal with at length at a later day. For now, I will say that many matters which arrive in family court are not legal matters and are brought to court by 1) sneaky people who figure they can run improper evidence past a judge, 2) people who are being treated badly and feel they will get a fairer hearing in this jurisdiction and 3) social workers and cops who are improperly apprehending children and trust that the lower standards for evidence in this court will keep their nefarious actions from being discovered.)
If police do a proper investigation, and if social workers do their work with the best interests of all family members in mind, very few cases will arrive in criminal court.
It was only because Carol Bunko-Ruys (left) knew full well that she could carry on her dubious therapy with the Ross children, submit huge bills to the government, and her fraudulant behavior would not be discovered that she was able to extract the preposterous allegations from ten year old Michael Ross and his sisters.
It was only because Brian Dueck was certain that if he got his case to court, none of the information would become public. He relied entirely on the successful application of court seals and publication bans — even to the barring of media from the court room) to take his shakey (manufactured) evidence to trial.
Lawyer Matt Miazga (left), acting as a crown prosecutor in this instance, knew exactly how to proceed with this case, once it fell into his lap after Terry Hinz had turned it down. Secrecy was the ticket.
Now almost the entire Saskatchewan legal community is in a snit because one of their own has had his dirty secrets exposed. They are not concerned with protecting the public from child abusers; they are concerned with keeping the public's eyes off of their sneaky ways.
When John Popowich accepted a government settlement of $1.3M, Chris Axworthy, who was the justice minister, made a flashy apology and assured the public that such a case was unlikely to happen again and that the justice system has "evolved" since Martensville.
Just last week, Queen's Bench judge Gerry Allbright overturned the conviction against a young man in a case where social worker Susan Pasieka and Crown Prosecutor Gary Parker had used exactly the same tactics as Bunko-Ruys and Matt Miazga to apprehend adopted children and prosecute members of a family in Tisdale. In this case, the family had paid top Prince Albert lawyer Clyne Harradance $4,500 to have one of their children returned to them after he had been illegally apprehended. The family wanted all of their children back but since that was all the money they had, Clyne told them they would have to choose which one.
The mother in this case has been devastated. As soon as charges were laid against some members of her family, Social Services lawyer Craig Neely told her that she must keep what had happened to her family secret. He had her sign an undertaking to not disclose any information he had put before the court. The apprehensions took place in September, 2001. At Christmas time, when she wrote the family's Christmas letter, she mentioned that seome members of her family were no longer with her. Someone on the Christmas list provided Prosecutor Gary Parker with a copy of this letter and Parker threatened to have her criminally charged for having broken her undertaking.
Think about it! Presumably, mundane information about herself, such as her date of birth or where she lived would be in the court documents. According to Parker's reasoning, she would be violating his undertaking by rewnewing her driver's licence or filling out any form where she was required to put her name and where she lived. This mother has been bullied by Gary Parker to the point where she is frightened to speak to anyone about some of the most significant events of her life.
Gary Parker would not have been able to bully this law-abiding mother if he had not already had the successful example of Matt Miazga. We can only speculate about possible pressure Social Services lawyers may have placed on the prosecutors. Social Services was not a party to the Klassen/Kvello civil claim. It is our hope that they will soon be confronted with their actions and that will have to explain them under oath.
Social Services has learned all the tricks of unethical secrecy. It will take a full public inquiry to examine how they have abused the privileges they enjoy because of their involvement with sensitive privacy issues. (See SP editorial)
For several years Greg Welan represented Social Services in the Klassen/Kvello civil suit. During that time (while Social Services was still named as a defendant) he represented the Minister of Social Services, Carol Bunko Ruys, Marilyn and Lyle Thompson and all three Ross children. There was a clear conflict, but it was not clear to Social Services at the time and had to be resolved in court.
We will continue to push for full public exposures of all the goings-on behind the scenes as we become aware of them. Once you take from sneaky people the darkness and secrecy where they are accustomed to carrying on their unethical acts, it reduces their ability to carry on business as usual.
We will not stop until business is no longer "as usual" but unusually open and honest in Saskatchewan.
As an example of just how incorrigible Saskatchewan lawyers are, I point to "The Humour Corner" in the March issue of The Saskatchewan Advocate, a lawyers' journal, by Rick Danyluk of McDougall Gauley. He compares the Klassen/Kvello civil claim to his suing the government for being fat because a second grade teacher humiliated him. The piece, called Lawyers, Guns and Money defames Lorne Calvert and John Gormley. It purports to support Frank Quennell. Yes, it is on the humour page. This is humorous to people who find burning the wings off flies funny. Or maybe humouring Fetal alcohol damaged children to tell lies for the camera.
We have yet to see a single Saskatchewan lawyer critique in any serious way the findings of Judge Baynton. Many have personally congratulated Richard Klassen. There is a time for congratulating the winner. There is also a time for analysing that which was won. Are any of them up to it?
The "Old Boy's Club" in Saskatchewan goes well past the police department. Compared to the Law Society of Saskatchewan, the police cover-up scam artists are amateurs.
When we began seeking accountability for public officials who had broken te law to charge innocent people we did not predict that the Saskatoon Police Service would be the first to respond. After eleven years of pushing, we now see a new chief finding his footing and investigating our complaints about former Chief Dave Scott's "old boy's club." We were pleased to see Chief Sabo publicly announce he had sent Dueck's file to an independant legal firm to see if Dueck had violated the police act. We now discover that firm was not so independant after all.
In fact it is the same firm who is representing Carol Bunko-Ruys, Dueck's partner-in-crime, in her appeal against Judge Baynton's findings of malice against her. The public has a right to know who advised Sabo to hire this firm.
We have been impatient. This should not have taken so long. Jim Maddin paid the price. He was elected mayor of Saskatoon on a program of cleaning up police corruption. During is three year term he was able to get rid of Scott and hire Sabo as the new chief. A new Board of Police Commissioners was appointed with an aboriginal woman at its head.
Last November's municipal election saw Maddin defeated and the board of commissioners restored to its previous state. Maddin's defeat was in great part the result of Dave Scott's last minute press conference where he defamed Jim Maddin and threw his support behind Don Atchison. Atchison won the mayor's seat on a program of taking back the police commission, shutting down the Little Chief Police Station and the implicit message was that he would get rid of Chief Sabo if necessary.
Atchison quickly changed his tune when faced with having to actually carry out his promises. Leanne Bellegarde-Daniels resigned voluntarily after Atchison made it clear he couldn't work with her. But the Little Chief station is still open and some of Sabo's community policing initiatives are moving forward.
We are still impatient. Dave Scott is enjoying a happy retirement after having promoted Dueck from corporal all the way to superintendant even as we were filing serious complaints against him.
But who can we call on to investigate Scott? Certainly not the RCMP. This is why we need a full inquiry into the Saskatoon Police Service's activities duing the 90s. At the Klassen/Kvello civil trial and the Stonechild inquiry, we got a glimpse into the mechanisms of covering-up wich the police routinely used to violate the basic rights of citizens and to decieve the public. Lost files and lost memories. Lying to the media. Splicing videotapes.
We owe it to the honest members of the force to throw out the rotten apples. Up until the Klassen/Kvello civil trial, Dueck was in charge of training new recruits! Before that, he was head of criminal investigations. During his five years as a superintendant he has had ample opportunity to spread his corrupt methods and continue his personal enrichment. While he was in charge of criminal investigations, he was also in charge of the pawn detail. Pawn shops in Saskatoon proliferated from half a dozen to 19 in this small city!
We hope that as Chief Sabo looks into the criminal actions we have pointed out to him with evidence from the Klassen/Kvello civil hearing, that they will also look at other areas where Dueck has been involved. His last stint as a sergeant was in drugs. We know that several of his "operations" or "sweeps" were crooked (he used hard-drug addicts to entrap marijuana users) and we would be curious to know the extent of the corruption. One thing we do know for sure is that the est side continued to decay, that harder drugs flowed freely on our streets, break and enters continued at a rate not reflected in the statistics and, as mentioned previously, there was a proliferation of pawn shops.
Dueck was the laison person with Dr. Brian Fern's methadone clinic. Methadone patients are vulnerable people who can be easily led: just as the Ross children were led by Dueck to make preposterous allegations of sexual abuse which found their way into court as "evidence" young people on methadone can be led as false witnesses. Dueck was a master at manufacturing this kind of evidence. Is this what he was teaching the new recruits?
A search of the Internet reveals that Brian Dueck was a spokesman for the Saskatoon police at conferences across the country. He spoke as an authority on sexual assault and drugs. He was introduced as a respected professional. He was making these trips and representing our city even as Saskatoon was placed on Amnesty International's watch list of cities where police brutality is a problem.
Meanwhile the Saskatchewan government continues in its arrogance by sidestepping the obvious questions raised by Judge George Baynton in his decision regarding the the Klassen/Kvello civil liability trial. Just as the Saskatoon Police Service under Dave Scott arrogantly disregarded public opinion and cleverly concealed criminal actions by police officers until it was called sharply to account (see SP editorial) so the Justice System continues on its merry malicious way.
During the Klassen/Kvello civil liability trial and also at the Stonechild inquiry, the public learned just how little training the police received. We also gained some insight into how miseducated many officers were. The Saskatchewan Justice department has within its ranks too many prosecutors who have been badly trained. Matthew Miazga is a stunning example of just what the University of Saskatchewan law school in Saskatoon has produced. Acting Dean of the law school, Dan Ish, wrote a personal viewpoint expressing his displeasure with Judge Baynton's decision.
Think about it! The Dean of Law has was compelled to publicly criticise the findings of a Queen's Bench judge! If our law school is run by professors who hold the justice system in such contempt is it any wonder that prosecutors are disrespectful of the fundamentals they were taught? In open court, Miazga said the maxim of Justice Rand, that the prosecutor's role was not to win at all costs but to bring forward the truth, was "tattooed on his forehead" at law school. Could it be that he looked in the mirror and got it backwards?
Many of us were raised to believe that in a court of law, justice was served when an arbiter weighed the evidence placed before him or her (the scales have been the traditional symbol of such weighing) and delivered a verdict based on a preponderance of the evidence. Evidence which is found to be false or untrue does not count in this balance. The arbiter must determine whether testimony is credible. Testimony which is found not to be credible does not count in this balance. In most cases, when the arbiter is an experienced judge, at the end of this process the verdict will be clear. The phrase "balance of probabilities" is sometimes used to determine the status of evidence which has been challenged.
Sandra Davis, a B.C. sixteen year old foster child, was removed from her foster family after her sister made a false allegation of sexual abuse against her foster father. After the allegation was shown to be false and the charges against her father were dropped, Sandra wanted to return to the family. She has been told she cannot return because "on a balance of probabilities" there is a risk that she would be sexually abused. She is being denied the right to live with a family, with whom she has already bonded, and being placed with a family she does not know. The Ministry has told her that she does not have to bond with this other family.
What the B. C. Ministry is saying is that because Sandra Davis's foster father had an accusation made against him, there is a possibility that he poses a risk even though that allegation was shown to be false.
All over the country, during the early 90s and continuing to this day, foster children have been removed from families and child care services have been shut down because people have been unlucky enough to have an allegation levelled against them. The benefit of the doubt goes to the person making the false allegation. Psychiatrist Roland Summit and social worker therapist Kee McFarlane, (see McMartin Pre-School [OFFSITE]) made lucrative careers by browbeating children into making false allegations and persuading some courts to believe the allegations. Although their methods were discredited in the eyes of many, their books and teachings still have a following. They still have their careers.
In Saskatchewan, Social Services employees Liz Newton, Anita Grosse, Susan Pasieka and contract therapist Carol Bunko-Ruys subscribe to the theories of Summit and MacFarlane. With the exception of Bunko-Ruys, who no one can find right now, all of them are still working. The head of Social Services, the name of which has now been changed to Human Resources and Employment, Sheila Gagne stood by her workers and their methods.
The work of these people and others with dubious credentials was also taught in Saskatchewan at the School of Social Work. I had occasion to teach English to some of these students during the mid 80s. One student in partiular was impressed with the book Michelle Remembers [OFFSITE]. I argued with her that it was fiction. She insisted that it was properly researched and revealed terrible crimes which were being covered up. I stood my ground and was told that the professor who had assigned the book said it was fact. It was my "opinion" against the other prof's. On a "balance of probabilities," the student determined that I was wrong and the other prof was right.
Of course, we all balance probabilities every time we are asked to make a decision based on conflicting evidence. We make decisions based on what we believe to be the best information available, sometimes we consult with others, and we often have to weigh credibility issues, especially if we are dealing with children. We make such decisions by placing the evidence within the widest possible context. We ask questions like: has this person ever lied before. We ask if the decision is right based on our past experience. We don't just take the word of the used-car salesman; rather we ask our friends and check the Blue book. We take the car to a trusted mechanic.
Yet, in B.C., a social worker has looked at Sandra Davis and said she cannot go back to the family she wants to be with. She has balanced her scale on the basis of one false accusation against the foster father. She has not taken into account that Sandra herself has said that she wants to live in that home. She has not taken into account that there has already been great disruption in this girl's life. She has not looked at the maturity of a sixteen year old girl who has looked at her own future and made wise decisions about how she wants to live her life. A real balancing of the probabilities in this case would put Sandra back with the foster family who already knows her and wants her.
During the Klassen/Kvello civil trial last September and October, all three Ross children testified to recant the stories they had told on videotape to Dueck and Bunko-Ruys. They are all young adults now. As Judge Baynton pointed out in his judgment, their testimony was not necessary — the tapes and other evidence was sufficient to show that the confessions were manufactured. From the point of view of Michael, Michelle and Kathy, though, this was just another confirmation that they were "throw-away" foster children, a phrase which Michelle used when she contacted me in 1998. Social Services spent a great deal of money keeping these three apart after the trials finished — despite the fact Bunko-Ruys had recommended that they should be kept together during the time the trials were going on. Social Services was quick to get all three of them to sign off on any future support which might be owed to them as a condition of getting minimum welfare payments as soon as they turned 18.
It is important to remember that Michelle and Kathy were both safe and happy when they were abruptly removed from Dale and Anita Klassen's home. This was a home where they had bonded. When they complained that they missed Dale and Anita, they were threatened with total abandonment.