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Has Saskatchewan learned anything?

The PR has always misrepresented the reality

Editorial: February 2003

Fifth Estate's Hell to Pay, the February 12, 2003 show about Martensville might more properly have been called Limbo to Endure. Former Justice Minister Bob Mitchell's apology was disingenuous. Mitchell certainly knew enough about Martensville to say T.S's name on a North Battleford radio show, go through a mock resignation for having broken the law by revealing the name of a young offender, and take his portfolio back after an appropriate absence which was supposed to show respect for the Justice system. Mitchell knew all about Martensville.

And he knew about the Foster Parent case, too. Anyone with two clues to rub together who could read the paper or watch TV knew about both these cases. And Bob Mitchell is no clueless idiot. He is a brazen liar.

Mitchell quit when the quitting was good and resumed his legal practice. Chris Axworthy took the portfolio of Justice Minister after he resigned from Parliament to be groomed as the next Premier as Romanow was also planning to quit while the quitting was good. Romanow went on to become an elder statesman and Commissioner of a health commission, which has received general praise from many quarters. Axworthy's plans to become Premier were thwarted by another Fifth Estate documentary, The Scandal of the Century. The original program which aired in November, 2000 won the triple crown of broadcasting awards: the Gemini, the Justicia and a share in the Michener.

Brian Dueck

It exposed a crooked cop, Brian Dueck, and showed Axworthy trying to duck the cameras as he insisted he could not discuss a case which was "before the courts". In the two and a half years since making that statement, government lawyers have done everything they can to make sure the ten million dollar lawsuit remains before the courts or gets thrown out. Lorne Calvert, who became NDP leader (and later Premier) a few days after the Fifth Estate update has done nothing to steer his Justice Minister to a better course. Now that Axworthy has quit politics (to go and teach law students, no less) Eric Cline will be left with the file.

They should all have figured out by now that these cases are simply not going to go away.

After the John Popowich settlement in June, 2002, Axworthy is quoted as saying, "crown prosecutors would not let this happen now - after what they've learned in the past decade". In fact they have learned very little about proper prosecutorial conduct, especially disclosure. The Fifth Estate website has provided some documents from this case which should be of interest to anyone studying false abuse cases. There would seem to be discovery documents among these. The Saskatchewan Crown's sudden deference to John Popowich is sharply contrasted by its treatment of the Klassen/Kvellos and inJusticebusters regarding the publication of documents. Richard Klassen was fined in January, 2001 based on Dueck's lawyer (Barry Rossman at that time) placing on the table a pile of raggedy pages printed from the Internet allegedly proving we had published banned material. It was simply not true but because Klassen was at that time represented by counsel, he did not get an opportunity to answer to it.

They have used, as the saying goes, "Every trick in the book." I am not going to discuss those tricks at this point because, to reprise Axworthy, "the case is before the court". I will say this much: One of the dirty tricks was to try and have Richard Klassen, the launcher and champion of the $10M+ civil claim, thrown out of his own lawsuit because of his association with this website. Government lawyers representing Matthew Miazga, Sonja Hansen, Richard Quinney, Brian Dueck and Carol Bunko Ruys are still being instructed to fight this case to the bitter end. As a Fifth Estate update of Scandal of the Century a year ago plainly showed, they would not disclose material important to the case. Richard Klassen had to take them in front of a judge several times to get the disclosure he needed to conduct his examinations for discovery.

I don't believe I would be in violation of any court order to report that Don McKillop (counsel for all except Dueck) and David Gerrand have been childish and petulant. The StarPhoenix report from June, 2002 clearly shows this. They have also encouraged their clients to fritter away important discovery time with frivolous comments, possibly in an effort to make the examinations more expensive in an effort to starve the plaintiffs.

I was told that Fifth Estate did not want Hell to Pay to be a "son of Scandal of the Century". If it is not a legitimate "son of Scandal" Martensville was most certainly its bastard child. The Klassen/Kvello charges had not yet been stayed when charges were laid in Martensville. The hysteria which had been started with the initial news reports on Dueck's arrests had not subsided when the Martensville arrests were made.

Many people still confuse the two cases, perhaps because that while the cast of characters differed, it all happened under the umbrella of our justice system filtered through media which applied the same sensational flourishes. Groups claiming "children never lie" received publicity during the years that followed. They had the ear of the police. University chaplain Colin Clay continued to promote the notion that Satanic cults were thriving in our land. The Globe and Mail covered the Foster Parent case while Saturday Night magazine headlined Martensville. There would seem to be a proprietary behavior among journalists which sometimes blinds them to obvious connections.

In our poverty stricken province, the lingering thrill that there is still a large, well organized Satanic cult out there still comes up from time to time on coffee row. This was a strong feature in both cases. In Martensville, according to The Fifth Estate, some people still believe their children were abused. I don't know what journalistic purpose it serves to give them a platform; anonymous, damaged, in the shadows. They are like members of the Flat Earth Society who, I think, should be educated into reality and failing that, ignored.

The Saskatchewan government still faces its reckoning. Whether there will really be hell to pay or if the falsely charged people are consigned to limbo remains to be seen. Popowich stated that a public inquiry was not necessary; I disagree. An inquiry into all the cases involving wrongful prosecution is necessary. Perhaps these cases could be included in the long-overdue inquiry into the David Milgaard fiasco, if and when that happens. It has been promised.

It is possible that Mitchell and Romanow believed the rumours. After all, respectable citizens including the head of the Saskatchewan Action Committee on the Status of women and many neo-feminists who took classes at the University of Saskatchewan completely bought into it. I was skeptical but curious, and perhaps a little concerned. But as soon as I started checking the rumours against the facts it became clear that this was a witch hunt. I then set about to try to counter it and was charged (I actually spent 30 hours in jail over this) with criminal defamation, ordered to stand trial and finally had the charges quashed on a writ. Nonetheless I was under a severe gag order for over a year. Four other people received similar treatment. Two went to jail for shockingly long sentences.

I have written so many letters my fingers have become raw. The replies, if there are any, are patronizing. Certainly no one has said he or she is sorry.

It is very clear to anyone who has followed these cases that Superintendent Brian Dueck and some people in the Office of Public Prosecutions were aware that innocent persons were being prosecuted. Under colour of law -- and the belief they could hide their tracks in a cloak of secrecy, they continued to pursue their course. Their careers advanced. They continued to advance the lie that the falsely accused were guilty.

Damages mount daily.

We hope to soon see a comprehensive Fifth Estate treatment of both these cases. Fifth has a lot of clout and we would be badly off without it. For now, justice in Saskatchewan is not doing well.

-- Sheila Steele, Feb. 16, 2003 (updated Feb. 19)


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John Popowich settles out: Whether it really is to "clear his name" as he says, or to create a new persona as "good cop hard done by", it really doesn't matter. In the final days before the settlement was made public his lawyer Geoff Dufour was playing dirty tricks (as in Watergate-type deceptions) on Richard Klassen. The lawyers on file for the Klassen civil case, Ed Holgate and Robert Borden colluded to keep from Klassen, who was representing himself, information that the government lawyers were about to present a motion (backed by more dirty tricks including a spliced surveillance videotape) to have him expelled from his civil claim.

It didn't work. Queen's bench judge Mona Duvall did not turf Klassen from the lawsuit which went to trial September 8, 2003. The full judgment is here: Judge Baynton is overly modest about its readability, saying that only the most committed will bother to read it. I disagree. The decision is a riveting read for anyone even tangentially interested in justice. | media coverage (most recent)