It is time for Saskatchewan to get right with its history. The gates of truth are opening and it is up to those who hold the power to determine whether we will have a manageable flow into a well-built spillway or a disastrous flood where truth is still sodden with clumps of lies, left to contaminate the countryside.
Approaching Saskatchewan's Centennial, Tommy Douglas's name has come up as an important figure. The "Father of Medicare" has been de-politcized and and rendered as a benign, bronze bust in a legislature inhabited by a majority who parrot his name and undermine everything he stood for.
Tommy Douglas stood for social and economic justice. And he fought for it.
No less important to the well-being of our citizens than the Gardiner Dam or Medicare is the 189 page judgment released by Saskatoon Court of Queen's Bench Tuesday, December 30, 2003.
One week after Judge George Baynton rendered a decision his judgment finding Saskatoon Police Superintendent Brian Dueck, Social Services' contract therapist Carol Bunko-Ruys and Crown Prosecutor Matt Miazga, the government lawyers are talking about appeals when they should be owning up to their misdeeds.
When Judge Mona Dovell, the pretrial judge on the civil claim file, got the file in order for the main trial, she recognized that because the trial would be lengthy, with many witnesses, it could be expedited by splitting the trial into two parts: the liability part followed by the damages part. It was acknowledged throughout the proceedings at the trial proper that only evidence pertaining to the liability of the defendants would be tendered. This sped things up considerably. How the plaintiffs had been damaged came into public knowledge only as a side-effect of testimony to the facts of what had been done to them.
Judge Dovell also stipulated that there could be no appeals until the end of the entire trial. In other words, liability having been established, the second part of the trial, the damages part, must be concluded before any appeal could be filed.
The defendants are putting the cart before the horse when they talk about appeals. The trial is not finished.
Before there can be any talk of appeals, the damages part of the trial must be held. The Saskatchewan government and Saskatoon police have their heads buried in the sand if they think that they can withstand another week of this trial. But that is what they are going to have to do if they want to appeal. The Rules of Court are clear. The three defendants have only two choices to preserve any dignity at all: they must come forth with an offer (the same amount for each plaintiff that was given to John Popowich in his out of court settlement would be a starting point) or they can go to the next part of the trial and get a judicial order to pay.
The liability part should happen within the next month to six weeks. It will not take long. Half a day should be sufficient for the plaintiffs to establish the actual damages they sustained. This is written, accompanied by bills and affidavits. Punitive damages? That should not take long to argue, either. Judge Baynton's judgment has already stated the seriousness of the transgressions. All three defendants have been found to have broken the law, forsaken their oaths and put the justice system in serious disrepute. They twisted the law. They committed crimes.
This is a final judgment.
Deb McEwan speaking for the Justice Department has said "it's a big judgment," waiting for an analysis before a decision is made whether or not to appeal. She has said "it is not final." This woman knows nothing about the law. We wonder if she even knows how to read. She puts the government of Saskatchewan in disrepute every time she opens her mouth.
McEwan, Jeff Bohatch and other "spokespeople" for the Saskatchewan Justice Department have been playing a malicious role throughout Richard Klassen's struggle to get his claim to court. Remember Deb from the Fifth Estate "Scandal of the Century" show? She was the one shielding former Justice Minister Chris Axworthy and ushering him on to the elevator, as he repeated, almost as though hypnotized, "cannot speak while it is before the courts." She and Bohatch had a direct line to the Premier and the Attorney General while The Fifth Estate was filming. There were direct threats to CBC and to producer Harvey Cashore. Until the eleventh hour, as they say on the CTV show, it was unclear if the show would be aired. CBC's lawyer, Dan Henry, recommended going ahead and joined Cashore and associate producer Howard Goldenthal on the stage to accept the Justicia award in Saskatoon, during the Canadian Bar Association convention held here in 2001.
Dan Henry did right. Not many lawyers have.
“A travesty of justice”
-- Judge Baynton
On December 30, within hours after Judge Baynton's decision was released, a spokesman for the Saskatchewan Crown Attorney's Association announced its intention to appeal. This was a matter of standing behind its errant prosecutor, Matthew Miazga without even acknowledging the seriousness of the illegal actions he had been found to have committed. The Saskatoon Police Association has been characterized as having built a blue wall of silence. These Crowns now hide behind a brick wall of malice. They speak, but they do not speak the truth and they do not stand for the truth. One of their own, Terry Hinz was a foundation brick which fell from that wall. The rest of that wall is held together with mortar made of half-truths and greed. Truth will eventually wash through and crumble it.
The floodgates of truth are opening, nonetheless. Many reporters in Saskatchewan, across Canada, and around the world are reporting on the judgment which broke through the blue wall and the brick wall. The Saskatchewan Medical Association is even having its litigation-proof cozy capsule punctured as its head, Dr. Joel Yelland has been found to be malicious. Eventually they will break through the child-safe gates that Social Services has erected around its procedures now that Carol Bunko-Ruys (right) has fallen down the stairs.
Judge George Baynton has done right. As not many judges have.
And then there is the Law Society of Saskatchewan.
Early in the history of this case, Robert Borden (right) went to the StarPhoenix and characterized the treatment of his clients, Diane and Dennis Kvello, as "a travesty of justice". He was brought up before the Law Society four times for "unprofessional" conduct. He weathered the storm, but he was certainly affected by it. He had been denied access even to the Ross, Ross and White proceedings which were based on the same "evidence" that his clients were to face. Now Judge Baynton has picked up Borden's phrase and chastised all those who allowed this to happen.
Robert Borden did right. And it is possible that other lawyers will muster courage from what he did.
Ed Holgate was the only lawyer in Saskatchewan Richard Klassen could find to file the original claim. He was pilloried by his peers. He was a cautious and frightened man who was trying to do the right thing. He knew that Klassen's original defence lawyer, Daryl LaBach had refused to file the claim, advising Richard "not to piss in their (the government's) cornflakes". He had watched what Robert Borden went through and was fearful that he, too would be called before the Law Society. In the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, a judge told him to "Shut up and sit down" in 1996. He was a battered lawyer. He believed vicious rumours that were spread to him about how dangerous Richard Klassen was, going to the streets and pissing in the cornflakes. He took seriously the threats from government lawyers about what could happen to him if any of the discovery material he had was made public, so he withheld important material from Richard Klassen, his client until 2001. He hated the website and refused to accept any e-mail with an address containing the word "injusticebusters". Holgate chose to believe his colleagues were honourable and to accept that Richard Klassen and I were dangerous. I ceased to have further contact with him after he called me a liar. I am no longer concerned about this since Judge Baynton's ruling has also vindicated what I have said.
Nonetheless, after all is said and done, Ed Holgate mostly did the right thing.
Richard Klassen, Angela Geworsky and I have all had threats -- either outright or veiled -- of facing criminal charges for practicing law without a licence at different times throughout the past ten years. This is an extremely serious charge. We have brashly responded to the threats by declaring that we practice justice and no one needs a licence to do that. Nonetheless, we have been aware of the possibility that such charges could be laid. The prospect of facing such a charge in a court run by lawyers and judged by lawyers is rather like imagining the Spanish Inquisition or the Salem witchhunts -- both of which the foster parent story has evoked for journalists and supporters of justice in recent days.
A big tip-off that your lawyer is not on the up and up is if advises you not to talk to us. We have given many second-opinions, and many of the cases we publicize are in the hands of capable lawyers. None of these are in Saskatchewan. When an injustice has already been perpetrated, even at the level of charges which do not fit, publicity is often the best tool a citizen has to work with. Such improper charging, careless prosecuting and the unfair judgments based on these occur so often that the major media simply cannot deal with them all.
Often, as in a case like John Melenchuk, the victim of this malicious treatment is not able to articulate clearly the nature of the injustice which has been done. That is where inJusticebusters, and other sites on the Internet, can serve a necessary function.
Many people who have asked us for advice, often after having spent their life savings on legal fees, have received from us the advice to fire their lawyers. It was good advice.
By the same token, the first time Richard Klassen told me someone had suggested he go to law school, I said to him "Why set your sights so low?" This has been the response to the same suggestion being made to him over the years.
We have never set our sights low. Our aim has been on the truth and that is where it will remain.
Saskatchewan will be 100 years old next year. We are proud to have spent better than a decade of that hundred years keeping it to its promise.
--Sheila Steele, January 6, 2004
P.S. I was hasty in burying the hatchet with Holgate. It should be clear from the above sermonette that Richard Klassen's strategy has been to wait for the malicious defendants to come to the plaintiffs with an offer.
Today, I have learned that Holgate, on his own initiative, without consulting those plaintiffs he still represents, called Don McKillop, the government lawyer (shown above) and David Gerrand who represents Dueck.
When Richard Klassen questioned him regarding this, Holgate's response was ". . . Richard, it was your decision to represent yourself. You have to deal with it."
Whatever that means!
In fact it would have been the decision of the majority of the plaintiffs to be represented by Richard Klassen but the rules of court did not allow for that.
Robert Borden is, of course, caught in the middle, and jealous that Richard Klassen is getting the lion's share of publicity.
To both of them, I say "Get with the program!"
Perhaps the settlement negotiations should be conducted in a public arena, with the lawyers all stripped to their skivvies and everyone in the audience given a vote on the final outcome. It is hard to imagine a situation more disreputable than what they have, from the very beginning, tried to turn this into.