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Some observations on Saskatchewan and justice

From micro to macro

Editorial: May, 2004

Now that Richard Klassen has ended his court issues with Superintendant Dueck (we are still waiting to learn if criminal charges will be filed against Dueck -- they were not) we can concentrate more fully on the remaining two defendants in the Klassen-Kvello civil matter: Carol Bunko-Ruys and Matt Miazga.

Carol Bunko-Ruys

Carol Bunko-Ruys (right) has been keeping out of the public eye. We are not aware of her having been awarded any new contracts by Social Services (now called Human Resources and Employment) in the past while. We can, however, say with some certainty that the Ross children were not her only clients while she was working for Social Services. We can infer that her methods would have been the same with all her young, damaged clients and that there are very likely others in the community who experienced wrongful apprehension of their children and possibly charges which were disposed of through plea bargaining as a result of her unprofessional conduct. Without a full public inquiry into all the contracts she was awarded by Social Services we will not be able to know just how widespread this conduct was.

We can say with some certainty that at least one social worker employed by DHRE relied on Bunko-Ruys style tactics: Susan Pasieka, who sat in with RCMP constable Bonnie Johnson in Melfort during the interrogations of the Vopni children. The victims in this case, along with the family members who were wrongfully charged (one was convicted, a new trial ordered and it now under appeal by the Crown) were three children who previously had the benefit of a dedicated, loving family who sacrificed much to accomodate their special needs and who are now in foster child limbo.

The Lamer Inquiry into the wrongful convictions of several Newfoundland men has reconvened and revealed a Saskatchewan connection. Cathy Knox, who prosecuted Greg Parsons, is now in private practice in Saskatchewan. She took Si Halyk with her to Nfld to represent her interests at the inquiry. She stated publicly that she would not prosecute such a case in the same way today. Her statement was received by the media as an apology but Greg Parsons was not having any of it. He said she was professional only as an actress and that we should not be deceived by "her soft-spoken voice and the sobby eyes". Parsons points out that she prosecuted the case without a single shred of evidence and that she deliberately villified him at trial. He gave as an example her assertion that Parsons' relationship with his mother was volatile and violent, an assertion which he vehemently denies.

Another man, Brian Doyle, was convicted of the murder of Parsons' mother, based on DNA evidence.

We should remember that part of the case against Parsons, as dreamed up by Knox, was that as part of a punk rock band he had created lyrics in punk rock, indeed established artistic, tradition, one of which is the expression of the desire to kill one's mother. This is a theme at least as old as Aristophones. William Shakespeare would not have fared well under such a prosecution.

Parsons is not accepting Knox's apology as sincere.

Matthew Miazga

It would be hard to imagine Matt Miazga (right) apologizing in a quiet, sobby voice, but we can anticipate the male equivalent from him sometime soon. Unless, of course, he continues in his arrogant insistance that he did nothing wrong, that he still believes he properly prosecuted the Klassens and Kvellos, and that because he has support from Justice Minister Frank Quennell he is under no obligation to account for his actions.

Frank Quennell, in his short time as Attorney General and Justice Minister has already challenged two Queen's Bench judges: George Baynton and Gerry Allbright. Cathy Knox should feel right at home in Saskatchewan. This is the province where prosecutors can place before the court cases they know are deeply flawed against persons they know are probably innocent. Then, when the flaws of the cases and reasonable doubt are revealed by judges at a higher level, the prosecutor can rely on the justice minister to use his even higher office to cast doubt upon the judges.

Brian Dueck

This must change before Saskatchewan citizens can take any pride in our justice system. Just as good cops have had to take the heat for the actions of bad cops like Hatchen and Munson and Brian Dueck, so good prosecutors are having to take the heat for sneaky prosecutors like Gary Parker, Matt Miazga and Sonja Hansen. Even worse, they have to watch their top boss, the minister, behaving like an ignoramus.

In March, 2003, before the Klassen-Kvello case had made it to trial, I wrote an editorial From macro to micro where I tried to understand Saskatchewan in the world context. A lot has happened in the 14 months since I wrote that one. One of the observations I made was that the Internet made it much more difficult for cover-up artists to conceal their ignoble deeds. Recent events in Iraq and the U.S. have shown this to be true. The Internet and cable news have brought to us the amazing and offensive pictures of badly trained American soldiers cruelly mistreating Iraqi detainees/prisoners of war.

Stripped Iragis

Stripped IragisThe disclosure of these pictures has resulted in an outpouring of outrage from highly placed U.S. officials (all the way to President Bush) insisting that our western civilization is above such savagery, that these are isolated incidents or aberations. The pious assertion is that systems based on Judean Christian values are superior to the less humane values of systems based on Muslim values. Several spokesmen and spokeswomen for the U.S. military have observed that the exposing of these incidents undermines their regime-change agenda and suggest razing Abu Ghraib prison would both symbolically and physically fix the problem. The idea seems to be that the building itself became contaminated with Saddam Hussein's violence because they were poorly trained, the U.S. prison guards became contaminated by the inhumanity.

Demolishing Abu Ghraib might not be a bad idea. There are a number of prisons in the U.S. and Canada which should be torn down for the same reasons. Unfortunately the problem is not only with the buildings but also with the people who built and administrated them. Journalist Seymour Hersh has revealed that the orders to sexually humiliate Arab prisoners was ordered by a secret special operations outfit created by Donald Rumsfeld. The plan was to use the pictures as blackmail to force prisoners to talk. The threat that the pictures would be shown to their families was supposed to make prisoners reveal details of whatever organization was directing them. This would all seem to be based on an understanding of human psychology which doesn't go beyond Pavlov's dogs.

As far as I know there are no female guards in Canadian prisons stripping male prisoners and leading them around on leashes. There are, however sadistic jail guards in our prisons. Our prisons are dehumanizing institutions. Many guards promote the attitude that losing freedom is just the beginning of punishment and that it is their job to make sure you are properly punished. A grade twelve diploma plus a short course will get any 18 year old a job as guard. Charter rights are not part of the course.

Needless to say, skinners (people convicted of sex crimes), particularly skinners who are convicted of sex crimes against children are considered fair game for inhumane treatment by everyone from fellow inmates to guards. They command less respect than murderers.

Right now we know less about what is going on in Saskatchewan prisons than we know about Iraq. We most certainly know that sexual humiliation is a thriving tool of some bad cops, social workers and prosecutors in Saskatchewan. Dueck instinctively used it when he interviewed Klassen/Kvello adults; Susan Pasieka and Bonnie Johnson used it to embarrass the Vopnis and then prosecutor Gary Parker threatened to charge Rebecca Vopni for obliquely referring to what they had done in a Christmas newsletter to friends: if you are not sufficiently embarrassed to shut up, I'll charge you with breaking a publication ban.

It is into this prison system that Matt Miazga, Sonja Hansen, and Gary Parker tried to send almost the entire Klassen-Kvello extended family and members of the Vopni family on charges which carry very long terms.

Miazga was found to have maliciously prosecuted the Klassens-Kvellos and Hansen was found to have been negligent. Parker's case against the remaining Vopni family member is still under appeal.

Dueck would seem to be the sacrificial lamb for the Saskatoon Police Service. (I bet Superintendant Murray Zoorkan, who attended the trial for many days alongside him is breathing a sigh of relief!) The Service stood by Dueck for many years, through several chiefs, and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars not only defending him but going after those of us who fought to bring him to justice.

The Saskatchewan Justice Department is likewise standing by its errant prosecutors. Eventually they will be forced to admit they have made some terrible mistakes. They will offer up a sacrificial lamb. Will it be Matthew Miazga?

--Sheila Steele, May 15, 2004