Now posted: the full text and some pictures from the StarPhoenix feature "And the truth shall set you free" by Sarah Gibb with portraits by StarPhoenix photographer Gord Waldner.
The human dimension of this story -- the depth -- is emerging now that Judge Baynton has determined its length and width. At least, for purposes of circumscribing this particular case, the judge determined the characters and set the story in space and time. Most importantly, he insisted from the outset that all proceedings take place in public.
Years ago, city solicitor Teresa Dust defended the non-publication of the facts in this story because, as she told Global TV, she did not want the story to come out in "bits and pieces." The lawyer acting for the city at that time asked a Queen's Bench judge to shut down this website. Judge Zarzeczny told him such an order would not come from his jurisdiction. We persevered, telling as much of this story as could, from as many angles as we could think of, alleging wrong-doing on the part of all the parties who have now been found to have acted maliciously.
A Supreme Court decsion in January, 2002, said society could not tolerate criminal police actions which are covered by publication bans. Two years later, Superintendant Brian Dueck is being investigated for the very criminal actions we alleged against him since 1998.
The police chief has apologized, setting an example for Chief Julian Fantino in Toronto who is stubbornly standing by his cops who have been revealed as participants in criminal acts.
The most prominent bit of this story right now is the prosecutors. Miazga has enjoyed the limelight during many high profile cases, including one of Colin Thatcher's hearings where Christie Blatchford was moved to write a column about his manly manner. When he told the media that the Crown had dropped the charges against the Klassens and Kvellos because the children were too traumatized to continue, he knew that he was telling a lie -- ah, just a little white lie to save face for the Justice Department.
Several justice ministers have come and gone since that day in February, 2002. They have all said and done any number of things to continue the saving of that face. They have relied on advisors and communications' officers to keep the story spun away from the truth. As recently as this week, Frank Quennell has said on national radio that the prosecutions were not for any purpose other than the protection of children.
We are now in a position to get this whole story out. Perhaps because it was so long suppressed, people are even more eager to read about it. As the public reads more about this story, many are finding it is a straight-forward narrative, easily grasped, a human story which captures their interest. There is an lmost universal aha, as each reader finds within the narrative some aspect of his or own experience.
Anyone with children knows what it might feel like to have cops and social workers sweep into their home and take their children away. Anyone who has ever hired a laawyer has had the experience of being made to feel stupid, patronized, like they were "being had." There are far too many people who have been arrested and found themselves in court facing charges which haven't properly fit the offence -- if there was an offence.
There are still some who read the story and try to put themselves in the position of the policeman, the therapist or the prosecutor, hoping to find some justification for their actions in this case. We want to believe in the fairy tale where if we just keep believing in fairies, the fairies will not die. But this is not Peter Pan. This is more like The Wizard of Oz. We have pulled away the curtain to reveal something pathetic where we had hoped for something grand.
--Sheila Steele, Jan. 23, 2004
Among other things, Justice Minister Frank Quennell said to Mary Lou Finlay on As it happens, January 21, 2004 segment 2: that he is appealing for fear of "prosecutorial chill", for reasons of public safety and the administration of justice.
"There are a number of inferences of fact that Justice Baynton draws from the evidence that he heard and those are being challenged by the defendants. . . I am concerned about the legal test . . . the purpose of the prosecutors was not improper . . . it was for the protection of the children. . ."
Finlay asks him how they could have allowed the children to be abused when they knew it was going on.
Quennell says he will not concede that the prosecutors knew or condoned abuse to go on.
Finlay asks him if he has read the judgment.
"I've read the judgement --I haven't been privy to what happened at the trial -- the transcripts . . . won't have been prepared yet . . . It is a disturbing account . . . I was reluctant to support this appeal . . . (the Klassens) have been through enough."
Quennell went on to say, "We are open to discussions with the Klassen/Kvello family about what we can do to address the fact that they were innocent. . . "
Finlay: Have you spoken to them about that?
"No. They have made proposals or suggestions in the press. I have invited them to make those directly to us . . .I have said I am really really sorry and I truly am."
The minister sounded sincere enough. Now it is time for him to take control of his own mind. If he is second-guessing Mr. Justice Baynton's judgment based on what he has been told by McKillop and Miazga, he had better get those transcripts and read them. He should also read the press reports.
Then, and only then should he talk to Richard Klassen. The only prosecutorial chill that could result from this is that Miazga and Hansen be put in the freezer.
--Sheila Steele, Jan. 22/04
What did you do today little girl? What did you do today?
For Kathy Ross, the answer might be that she rode the bus.
Me? I went to court. I sat. and I watched. And I came home to report to you, precious readers.
I won't make you read my other observations before telling you the outcome. It is this:
Judge Baynton addressed the public on the matter of Judge Dovell's order that no appeal be allowed until the damages portion of the trial was completed. He noted that the order was clear. He said that while he was not part of the pretrial conference, and that such an order was, perhaps, unusual, that it was also generally accepted by the Appeal Court in criminal proceedings that appeals are not heard until the full trial, including sentencing, have completed.
He said that any attempt on the part of the defendants to appeal flies in the face of Judge Dovell's order. He also acknowledged that the Appeal Court was a higher jurisdiction and that he would be bound by any decision they made.
On January 28 (one week from today) all parties will be at the Appeal Court in Regina, before a judge in chambers. McKillop, on behalf of his government clients, will ask that the damages portion of the trial be set aside until the Appeal Court hears their appeals to overturn against the findings of malice against them. Mr. Gerrand, on behalf of Brian Dueck, will be asking for assurance that his client has not forfeited the right to appeal at a later date by failing to appeal now. Richard Klassen will be asking that the damages portion proceed to completion before any appeal can be filed.
Judge Baynton set September 13 as the date for the damages portion of the trial. Six weeks have been set aside for this. September was the earliest date with a clear six weeks. Richard Klassen made the record that he did not think six weeks would be necessary.
David Gerrand made the record that he hoped a pre-trial settlement conference could be arranged.
The government is the monolith which seeks to drag out the process and bore us all to tears with its paternalistic bullshit.
And here, kind friends, is where I share my observations.
Unbenounced to me, but announced early in the proceedings, Mr. Holgate presented Mr. McKillop with a box of papers, apparently containing files on all the plaintiffs with the exception of Richard Klassen, detailing the psychological and medical damages suffered by his clients since the arrests on July 10, 1991.
The presentation of these boxes, combined with Borden's statement to the court that he and Holgate intended to recall all the plaintiffs with one witness per plaintiff so they would require 21 court days (a month) to present their case gave Mr. McKillop the opportunity to state that they could not possibly be ready before the fall. They would need to call experts, etc.
The strategy of Holgate and Borden is clearly at odds with what I understand to be Richard Klassen's strategy and what I perceive from Judge Baynton's judgment on liability to be sensible. Judge Baynton already made it clear that he had taken notice of the damage done to the plaintiffs: any reasonable sensate person would have been damaged by the actions which were committed against them. Baynton went through the individualized damage which was deliberately inflicted, from apprehension of children, bullying the women in Red Deer, to the ostracization by friends and neighbours and the danger inherent in being stigmatized as a child molester.
These were findings of fact, based on what he heard from witnesses who were fully cross-examined by the defendants, except where the defendants chose not to cross-examine them.
The actual costs (clothes, travel and accommodation during the preliminary hearing, work lost because of having their lives put on hold for year) are easily calculated.
Nervous breakdowns and suicide attempts and such can never be quantified into costs; nor can it be absolutely proven that any of that was a direct result of actions by the defendants. To get into any of this is undignified and lends to the very type of hysteria and theatrics Richard Klassen and injusticebusters have tried to avoid since we first set about to make this thing public. Although there is an appetite among some of the public for gut-spilling, tear-gushing and the picking at of open wounds, we have not ever pandered to that.
The damages in this claim are mostly punitive. Exemplary. A cop, a therapist and a crown prosecutor acted in a manner which was not for the purposes of furthering justice and, by so doing, acted maliciously.
There should be no stooping to arguing about who was more damaged and who is worth more. The point is that this could have happened to any member of the public and those who perpetrated these malicious acts must be sufficiently punished that no one in their positions would ever consider committing such crimes again.
We have stated before that the $1.3M out-of-court settlement bestowed on John Popowich would be a starting point, as a settlement upon each and every plaintiff.
As Randy Burton pointed out in a column in Monday's StarPhoenix, damages are mounting daily.
The government, as represented by Donald McKillop stalls and fills our ears with senseless nothings, has among its questionable goals the full intention of starving out the plaintiffs in this case and other potential plaintiffs filing their way into the courts to plead for justice. Richard Klassen was back in fighting form this morning and didn't even have to fight. Judge Baynton's interpretation of the standing order accorded with his own. Rick assured us after court that he still has lots of fight left in him.
But what about the others? What about Kathy Ross who was removed from the safe house of Dale and Anita Klassen, and, along with her twin sister Michelle was placed in the Thompson house where she was subject to sexual assaults by her brother Michael for 43 months. The government, that is, McKillop can very well tell the public that Social Services is no longer part of the lawsuit, but the fact of the matter is that the government allowed and paid big bucks for these criminal assaults to go on. What about Michelle who was caught in the middle of Michael and Kathy and did what she felt she had to do to survive at the age of ten? And what about Michael whose out of control behavior was rewarded and allowed to continue?
As Judge Baynton pointed out, he cannot place any credibility on the testimony of these children; they have all told lies and recanted.
Nonetheless, the Ross children were all wards of the Saskatchewan government, looked after by people who were paid big bucks to keep them, even after they were all separated from each other, until the moment they turned 18 when all support was cut off. None of them were properly prepared to face the harsh streets where they were forced to fend for themselves. Kathy was sent to B.C. where the Saskatchewan government kept very close tabs on her and what not allow her any contact with any members of her family.
Whether they have any lasting credibility or not, all three of the Ross children made thorough and public apologies to all the people they had damaged through the lies the government coached them to tell.
None of us were wealthy people when we set out upon this fight. Whatever resources we may have had have long been spent. And yet we were the people who, from time to time, helped each of the Ross children out, developed attachments and fondness with them -- but we could never give them what they need and what they surely deserve which is a chance to make a new start in lives they never got the chance to properly start.
There are the Ross young people and then there are the children who have come after them who are wards of this government and who are faring not much better.
There are those in this province who remember kinder days, when our welfare state was actually making an effort to care for the vulnerable among us. Perhaps it was not a golden age, but it was something. There were not so many needy and their needs were not so great.
Superintendent Dueck grew up in this province, during those days, and he chose malice instead of kindness. That has been proven and the Chief of the Saskatoon police force has apologized on his behalf. His lawyer has expressed a desire to settle the matter.
I am reminded of these lines, from the last stanza of the poem "To Posterity" by Bertolt Brecht:
For now, there is not much choice but to judge the Saskatchewan government harshly. They who once claimed to be laying the foundations of kindness, of social justice, have become that which we must now resist.