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Christmas comes early for inJustice warriors

Editorial, November 2003

No, we have not received the judgment on the Klassen/Kvello trial. The Christmas I am talking about concerns the events in Winnipeg culminating in James Driskell's release from prison on Friday. As events unfolded during the week, starting with the release of the report which Winnipeg Police Chief Jack Ewatski had fought so hard to keep secret because its release would prove "embarrassing," Santa's sleighbells jingled in the distance.

Well shucks and golly gee. The blushing faces on the conspiring gang of paid functionaries and elected officials who have sworn to uphold the law of the land quickly subsided as they returned to their every day cold blooded state. The report contains enough evidence to put several of them in jail for obstructing justice.

As in the Klassen/Kvello case, the most difficult task in the Driskell case has been to actually bring to public light "embarrassing" reports. Now we have them and the next stage of the long journey to justice will be to charge all of those who participated in the framing of James Driskell with obstruction of justice, malicious prosecution and conspiracy.

As the report was released, Manitoba Justice Minister Gordon Mackintosh quickly appointed a judge to preside over an inquiry. Winnipeg Free Press columnist Gordon Sinclair Jr. noticed that Justice John Enns has a reputation for being soft on police. The Manitoba Bar Association has rushed to attack Sinclair and vouch for Enns's impartiality. It is quite conceivable that half of them should be locked up, too. In Manitoba, lawyers, with the exception of Greg Brodsky, Driskell's original defence lawyer who was not disclosed the key information that would have seen his client acquitted at trial, or, at the very least on appeal, are not looking much better than they are in Saskatchewan where we have yet to find a completely honest, diligent, reliable and ungreedy one amongst those who hang out their shingles for the defence.

Among the prosecutors, we know that Matt Miazga and Sonja Hansen (defendants in the Klassen/Kvello lawsuit), Bruce Bauer and Leslie Sullivan (the Martensville prosecutors), Barrie Stricker and Todd Wellsch who prosecuted Leon Walchuk and Gary Parker, the prosecutor in the Tisdale rape case are high on the list of those who should be seriously sanctioned by the Law Society. Even when public pressure results in getting charges laid, it is almost unheard of to get a conviction. Remember Randy Kirkham. He was charged with obstructing justice because he, along with members of the RCMP, tampered with the jury pool in the Robert Latimer case. Kirkham was acquitted and no RCMP were charged.

The system clearly needs revamping, from bottom to top.

Let's start at the bottom, with citizen complaints against the police.

Brian Dueck

In 1993, after we had discovered evidence of crimes committed by police officer Brian Dueck, we took this evidence down to the police station and asked to have him investigated and charged. Our filed complaints were sent to the Police Complaints outfit run by Sgt. E. R. Gritzfeld and investigastor Gary Treble. I was personally visited by Gary Treble in December, 1995. He treated me like a criminal and used variations on the Reid technique to try to get me to recant my complaint. I did not recant, but the investigation went no further and six years later, Dueck was the highest ranked superintendent (next to deputy chief Wiks) on the city police payroll.

I also have some complaints against Jack Ewatski. When this website first began championing Monique Turenne's case, we published the forged "confession" which his officers, Loren Schinkel and Jim Thiessen had extracted from her under conditions which many would agree were torture. Ewatski sent me a letter which was the paper equivalent of my visit from Gary Treble. Loren Schinkel is continuing to advance his career.

Many cops, all the way to the top, have got it into their heads that any method which "works" is okay. Whether withholding evidence (before or after the Supreme Court Stinchcombe decision), or intimidating citizens either suspected of crimes or complaining about their conduct, as long as they could get their cases past a judge or get vocal citizens to shut up they could rest assured they would keep their jobs and get promoted.

Citizens need a neutral place, staffed with committed and honest people to take their complaints. Manitoba recognized the need for this some time ago and created the Law Enforcement Review Agency (L.E.R.A.). Monique Turenne's father wrote to L.E.R.A. Their response was to write a meaningless, pacifying response to him and do nothing. L.E.R.A. is a joke.

The Saskatoon and Winnipeg police services share the following similarities. At the time Ewatski co-wrote the controversial report, he was the Winnipeg force's public relations' person. In Saskatoon, Dave Scott was Saskatoon Police's PR person during 1991 when both the Stonechild death and Klassen/Kvello arrests took place. After Joe Penkala, an outsider brought in as chief, left in Saskatoon in disgust, Scott became chief. Scott promoted Dueck, despite his being named in the Klassen/Kvello lawsuit. In Winnipeg, Ewatski became chief and he has actively covered and defended the actions of miscreant officers, particularly Loren Schinkel.

In Saskatoon, a mayor elected on a community policing platform got rid of Dave Scott (with great difficulty) and brought in an outside chief. The new chief was still finding his footing as Hatchen and Munson were being brought to justice for having left Darrell Night on the outskirts of the city. The present PR man is Lorne Constantine who claims Hatchen and Munson should still be acknowledged for service on the police website. He mislead the new chief, who first announced the "Moonlight Ride" of Darrell Night was an "isolated incident" and had to public retract this assertion when confronted with evidence to the contrary. Scott, Constantine and Ewatski are all silver-tongued devils until confronted. They then become truly dangerous. Scott intervened aggressively at the last minute to help defeat Mayor Maddin in the October mayorality election. The new mayor got rid of the first aboriginal police commission chair. And on and on it goes.

The media has been slow to catch on that the police press releases cannot be taken at face value. Gradually, reporters are becoming more skeptical, earning the title "journalist". There cannot be enough watch dogs over these police forces right now. And there are not enough. But occasions like the release of the Manitoba report speak well for the future. This is a file which could very easily have disappeared as well, but for vigilence on the part of honest people.

It took federal intervention to finally order release of the Manitoba report on Driskell; maybe we should look to the feds to create such a place.

At the top, where we are seeing so many cases of wrongful convictions, we also need an organized agency to investigate properly -- and rectify -- the many complaints made by people who have evidence they or their loved ones have been improperly convicted. As it stands now, the only recourse is to go to a lawyer, who will often make promises and not keep them, take money in return for doing a shoddy job, or brush the person off in some other way. Unless they are lucky enough to have someone like Greg Brodsky willing to go the distance for them, they are up shit creek.

The Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted has done an outstanding job but it deals only with cases where all other avenues have been exhausted. What is someone like Leon Walchuk to do? His original defence counsel, Aaron Fox, did not have access to important exculpatory evidence, ran a case with less than a full deck in a community which was whipped into an almost lynch-mob hysteria against his client, and then let it go. Hersch Wolch did the appeal, but was unable to shake a single person on the 3 man appeal panel. So despite having new evidence, Walchuk has no automatic right to go to the Supreme Court. He has already spent most of his money on experts who have refuted the evidence of experts at his trial and lawyers who have got him no where. From the day his wife died in a horrible accidental fire and he was improperly charged with murdering her, he has been blindsided by those who were pledged to protect him.

There are several other cases the we know about because people who have no money or have already exhausted all their resources seeking justice have contacted the website. We are in no position to do the necessary leg work to get these cases back to court. And we have nowhere to refer them.

The release of the Ewatski report provides us with credibility in that more people are likely to believe us when we allege an improper investigation was done or the prosecutors acted maliciously. More public support will lead to the kind of measures we are calling for.

Manitoba Justice minister Gordon Mackintosh is perhaps taking a page Saskatchewan by appointing the Enns inquiry. Saskatchewan had great luck with shipping troubling cases over to Alberta to have a judge look at the case and publicly cleanse it. They did it with Milgaard and then with Martensville. When Martensville was cleansed, the public was led to believe the Klassen/Kvello matter was also cleansed. The only problem with that was that none of the Klassen/Kvello material was sent to the Alberta judge. Of recent years, Saskatchewan Justice has looked to strike commissions within the province to cleanse its filthy laundry.

The Committee on First Metis Peoples and Justice Reform ordered by two-justice-ministers-ago Chris Axworthy and headed by Hugh Harradence, another lawyer more preoccupied by his own ambitions than by justice, has a budget of $2.5M. This committee has provided some high priced meals to be shared among commissioners and official Native leaders, but little in the way of justice. The ongoing inquiry into the 1991 freezing death of Neil Stonechild has gone well beyond its allotted time and budget; so far we know that cops suffer memory loss and lose their files and that supervisors didn't bother to check the work of the cops they are supposed to be supervising. Throughout all of these proceedings, we see contempt for the dispossessed. The Stonechild inquiry has moved between two expensive downtown hotels and Centennial auditorium, not exactly venues where the people who have the most at stake in the outcome feel particularly welcome.

The inquiries into all of these matters will have to be held in communities where ordinary people live in facilities where those investigating can roll up their shirt sleeves and get to work. Justice is going to have to get its clothes dirty before it can wash its hands.

In the early days of the Soviet Union, pictures of officials found guilty of malfeasance were posted on buses. That's one punishment which didn't seem to work. This is a new century, with new imaginations. While it is true that heads are going to have to roll, in the figurative sense here are a host of possibilities for making the wrongdoers account for their actions. There are many models to choose from. Sentencing circles and reconciliation tribunals come to mind. Imagine Ewatski, Schinkel, Dangerfield, Dueck, Miazga, etc. being placed at a country retreat with those they falsely indicted and their friends and families for a long weekend. Given the dignity and fair mindedness that those who have so far been found to be wrongly convicted have shown, the result could be interesting. Maybe some of them could even be rehabilitated!

Those are my thoughts, as I contemplate this wonderful pre-Christmas present.

--Sheila Steele, Dec. 1, 2003