Feb. 15: Yesterday, as I was writing the sermonette below, Premier Lorne Calvert was holding court at the second of his "round table" discussions in the community of Tisdale.
Timothy Shire, editor of Ensign included the following paragraph in his report:
. . . (Calvert) was asked about the Klassen settlement and explained that negotiations are going on with the representatives of the various parties in an attempt to get a reasonable and fair settlement. He went to some lengths to explain the underlying concerns the government has about the judgement in the case. He like all people in Saskatchewan are profoundly moved by the sad consequences for those wrongly accused but the position of the government must not only be to look at this individual incident but to be extremely concerned about what a judgement like this does to perhaps endanger the need for prosecutors in the future to do their best to make this a safe society and prosecute without fear of being themselves prosecuted for their efforts. . . .
Calvert's odd mixture of Orwellian new-speak and 21st century fear-mongering is particularly distasteful when we consider he is speaking in Tisdale. The prosecutors who work in that part of the province should be fearing sanctions for their shameful prosecutions of members of the Vopni family, whose children were apprehended from them September 19, 2001 and charges laid on grounds as shaky as those presented to the prosecutors of the Klassen/Kvellos. Parker and Scott were also out of line at the rape trials last summer.
If these are examples of their best efforts, the public should indeed be worried about safety. Errant knights and ladies move freely through this domain. Social worker Susan Paseika, members of the Melfort RCMP and the prosecutors named above conspired maliciously in both these cases. As a consequence, the public is not safer: instead special needs children who were safe have now been placed at risk. (See sermonette from Christmas Eve)
Richard Klassen has shown himself to be completely reasonable, as he represented himself at the seven week civil trial last fall and as he has tried to claim what is rightfully his since the judgment in his favour.
On the John Gormley show this morning, he disclosed more of the proposal he had made to Justice Minister Frank Quennell when he met privately Monday morning. He told Brent Loucks and the CKOM listening audience that he gave the minister guideline settlement figures which would not set precedent but which would be within the range of comparable settlements. Those figures were $780,000 at the low end (the amount settled on Jason Dix in Alberta) and $1.1M at the high end (Wrongfully charged Saskatoon policeman John Popowich received an out of court settlement of $1.3M but $200,000 of that went to lawyer Geoff Dufour.)
Klassen made several other suggestions to the minister about how the case could be settled to the satisfaction of the plaintiffs. These included ideas about how to deal diplomatically with other claims which have been filed as a direct result of the actions of Social Services and the defendants who were found by Judge Baynton to have maliciously prosecuted. The suggestions were taken seriously by the minister. Klassen also suggested that one week would be a reasonable time for Quennell to crunch the numbers and consult with his staff.
It was Klassen's intention to inform the media that a serious discussion had been held and a one week deadline set down. Instead, Borden hijacked the press conference by extracting an apology from the minister and acting like a child who has had too much cake at a birthday party. Yesterday, on CKOM, we learned that the Borden had also asked the minister for a private meeting with the premier -- and that he had received assurance he would get one! Now we have the cat who swallowed the canary.
It is not surprising that Richard Klassen has taken a jaundiced view of this meeting with the premier which Borden has been portraying as a victorious achievement.
Last week, Premier Lorne Calvert imperiously announced that he was no longer going to make himself so accessible to the media. He would make announcements on his own time, said Mr. Calvert. Obviously he wanted to get back to the good old days when reporters were lazier and often took government press releases at face value. Calvert has not done well in media scrums. He has been exposed as a figurehead who doesn't really know what is going on in his government but is expected to represent it, nonetheless.
Kind of like Robert Borden at the Klassen/Kvello civil trial.
Now that Calvert has announced he will be more exclusive in choosing who he talks to, some would think it is a great honour that he would now deign to speak to the Klassen/Kvello family. That would be the imperial view. Us plebs know better.
Last summer, in the weeks leading up to the civil trial, Richard Klassen, his family and supporters did everything possible to give the government, as represented by Premier Calvert and then justice minister Eric Cline, an opportunity to settle this matter out of court. (The same was done with the Saskatoon police).
As you will recall, we went and camped on the lawn at the legislature. The Regina and Wascana police showed unprecedented cooperation in making sure we had permits. The Sask. Party justice critic invited Richard Klassen into the gallery during question period and asked Eric Cline directly what he was going to do to settle the matter.
Cline said, on the record, reported in Hansard, that the matter was before the courts and that he would act after a judge had ruled on the case. Well, we know that is not what happened.
What of Calvert?
The sermonette from last May 15 states our position clearly. Come clean, compensate or clear out, we said to Calvert and Cline and we are genuinely, sincerely sorry to have to repeat it. On hearing that the Klassen family was going to be at the legislature, Calvert came back to Saskatoon to announce that he would -- not -- be calling the spring election many had been anticipating. He returned to Regina later in the week and we were still there, camped on the lawn. Many people had spoken with us and received our literature and read our signs.
We were calling for full and fair settlements in both the Klassen/Kvello and Martensville cases. We learned that many people still confused the two and we patiently explained that while similar in many ways, notably the malice of the prosecutions, they were two different cases. Calvert surely knew what was going on.
Richard Klassen sat down and wrote Calvert a letter. It was a letter which offered Calvert a way out, and included an invitation to come out and speak with him. Not only did Calvert decline to come down, he did not even acknowlege receipt of the letter.
Calvert called his election the day the civil trial began. The justice department had also arranged for the public inquiry into Neil Stonechild to be held at exactly the same time. This was a crude and obvious way of splitting the media attention. It didn't work. Hard-working reporters showed up every day at the civil trial and covered it better than any trial in Saskatchewan has ever been covered. Other events were also covered. Saskatchewan mass media showed itself capable of critical standards we had rarely witnessed before the fall of 2003.
Randy Burton pointed out in a StarPhoenix column last week that the NDP government was behaving as though it had not expected to win the election. That is a cogent observation. Certainly, it is not using its power wisely.
After The Ross children were removed from Dale and Anita Klassen's Saskatoon home, they, along with John and Myrna Klassen and Richard and Kari Klassen moved to Red Deer. Dueck, who was still "investigating," i.e. trying to find weaknesses within the family he could add to his "information" to present to the Crown, tracked down their siter Pamela in a park. "Tell your brothers they can run but they can't hide."
Lorne Calvert has been running and hiding from this case ever since he was elected.
With all the events that have transpired since Judge Baynton's Dec. 30, 2003 judgment, it is simply wild and slightly funny that Robert Borden would present to the media the fact he had arranged a private meeting for his clients with Premier Lorne Calvert as a victory or, even, as in any way important. Lorne Calvert is not the Queen. He is not the Pope. He is a short-tempered little preacher who is in way over his head. Shame on Robert Borden for offering him such an easy way out.
Or trying to.
A way out is not Borden's to offer.
Richard Klassen told Brent Loucks this morning that he has no intention of attending this prize meeting Borden has announced with such enthusiasm. At least five of Borden's other clients will not be there, either, Klassen said.
Klassen reiterated that his meeting with Justice Minister Frank Quennell on Monday was a serious meeting and that Quennell had until Monday to respond to his proposal. If there was no response, Klassen would take his family back to the legislature. The ledge, as we call it.
It is Friday now.
Shucks -- royalty doesn't like it, but often they have to work week-ends.
There is one apology that Calvert should be giving to Richard Klassen -- and to the rest of us who have been pushing this and other cases uphill for the past decade: and that is "I'm sorry for treating you all like so much shit on my shoes."
Opposition Justice critic Don Morgan has also made a proposal which is very interesting. He has suggested that the civil proceedings be suspended and that a respected judge such as Peter Cory be brought in to review both the Klassen/Kvello and Martensville cases and assign appropriate damages. He was suggesting the damages would be decided according to psychiatric and medical reports which such a judge would have access to.
As we have stated before, it is futile to compare the damage of one person to another. In fact, is not something we should ever do or even think about doing. Such processes fly in the face of any notion we might have of equality among people. It could be compared to looking at survivors of the holocaust and comparing losses. Rather we want to be part of a social structure where all damaged persons are properly looked after and given what they need.
Which is not to say someone like Cory should not be brought in to take a look at the cases, as Morgan suggests. We have been calling for a full public inquiry into the Saskatchewan justice system for a very long time.
Neither is this to say that Saskatchewan is the only province which needs a close looking at. Manitoba is still a long way from coming out of the hole it dug for itself with Thomas Sophonow and James Driskell. There are other Manitoba cases which are still to be fully exposed. But they may be establishing meaningful mechanisms to deal with them. Ontario is a hotbed for prosecutors with malice on their minds. Saskatchewan's claim to fame as the birth place of medicare is tired and somewhat tarnished as people in need of essential medical services are put on long waiting lists which are not tolerated in other places. Perhaps we can reclaim some fame as the place where justice first stood proudly in 2004. The next days will tell.
The damages in these malicious prosecutions must be punitive. It is not so much about what they did -- we all know that, now --it is about making sure that they never, never, even consider, much less do such things again. That is, prosecute people investigations show are innocent by manipulating evidence and the court process.
Such malice on the part of public officials must not be acknowledged and brushed aside. We have spoken before of the necessity for putting malicious prosecution into the Criminal Code of Canada. Any cop, crown, social worker or lawyer who feels chilled by this prospect should re-examine his or her life. We could think of the time between now and when the legislation is passed as a kind of retroactive amnesty during which these folks can clean up their acts.
Richard Klassen has said that he wants apologies from the people who were found liable in the civil case. Prosecutor Matt Miazga, therapist Carol Bunko-Ruys and Saskatoon police Superintendant Brian Dueck. Just as damages are mounting daily, so grows the list of people who should be apologizing to Klassen.
Many of us think Klassen's proposal to the minister was far too geneous. And no one would be unsympathetic with him if he asked for a precedent-making settlement: say double what he proposed last Monday.
With the lawyers getting their per centage only on the first half.
Precedents should be set. Accountability should be seen.
Are all these lawyers working for us or are we working to keep the lawyers rich beyond avarice?
--Sheila Steele, Friday the thirteenth of February, 2004