In 1994, when we were first charged with criminal defamation, we got a crash course in what it is all about. We do not claim any special status because we are on the Internet. What we do is journalism.
We have the advantage of not having to answer to any advertisers. We answer only to ourselves and our readers. When we cease to have readers, we will find another way to express ourselves. For now, we are proud to be part of a great global experiment. At a time when the gap between rich and poor is evident, we believe that telling the truth is still a viable method of changing the world, narrowing the gap.
-- Sheila Steele
SASKATOON - Dec. 5, 2003 - John Lucas has been held over to stand trial on charges of defaming Queen's Bench judge Paul Hrabinsky and rent-a-crown Rod Donlevy. He is being held without bail; the court date has not been set. John Hardie is representing him.
Lucas was arrested on September 15 outside Queen's Bench court house in Saskatoon while he was distributing and postering the material for which he has now been indicted. Earlier he had been picketing at both the police station and the court house protesting Superintendent Brian Dueck's continued employment even as Dueck was in civil court for malfeasance in the Klassen/Kvello civil case.
Lucas has had a lengthy relationship with this case, going back to 1993 when Diane Kvello first provided him with tapes of herself and her husband being interviewed by Dueck and tapes of the Ross children making preposterous allegations against them. These tapes had been provided to Kvello by her counsel, Robert Borden after the charges against them had been stayed. Lucas and his wife, Johanna began a campaign to bring the facts of the case to public attention. After Lucas received newspaper publicity in September, 1993, Richard Klassen, another accused in the same case became aware of the existence of this disclosure material and moved his family from Red Deer to Saskatoon to investigate further. All the material in the case was under publication bans and court seals at the time Lucas began his campaign. He and Johanna were arrested shortly after they began the campaign.
The outcome of all of this was that after weeks of trials, where the crown brought in Rod Donlevy to prosecute, Judge Paul Hrabinsky found the Lucases guilty. John was sentenced to two years imprisonment and Johanna slightly less. At the Saskatchewan Appeal Court, the convictions were upheld and sentences slightly moderated. Clayton Ruby took their appeal to the Supreme Court which upheld the convictions in a rare 9-0 decision.
Lucas has a long history of faxing judges and lawyers with bald accusations.
After the Ross children recanted their testimony from the original court proceedings in Ross, Ross and White and Klassen/Kvello, Lucas believed he had fresh evidence with which he could get the conviction overturned. The taciturn manner with which he set about to achieve this end alienated almost everyone he engaged with from Clayton Ruby to inJusticebusters. While The Fifth Estate was in Saskatchewan preparing the program "The Scandal of the Century", his tactics nearly caused the show to be scuttled.
His most recent attack against inJusticebusters was to accuse us of revising the history of the case. He is very possessive about this case, since he and his wife were the first to bring some of the facts to public attention. The two of them have been particularly vicious to Sheila Steele. In 1994 they sent a fax to Ed Holgate, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Klassen/Kvello family, advising him to keep his client, Richard Klassen, away from her because she was a witch.
In 2002, Lucas laid a claim in Saskatoon Court of Queen's Bench against almost everyone who was involved with his original defamation conviction. The claim was struck a few weeks later by Justice Mona Dovell.
Lucas has seen Judge Paul Hrabinsky as his nemesis ever since Hrabinsky, during his original sentencing of Lucas for defaming Dueck, gave an almost rapturous soliloquy to the cop, lambasting anyone who would smear his golden reputation.
The 1998 Supreme Court decision has been used as precedent for charging and convicting countless Canadians for defamation since. Unless Lucas changes his tactics, it is unlikely he will be the one to set this blow against the Charter right. His lawyer is going to have an uphill battle. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court of late has been showing itself to be more aware of the importance of upholding the rights of citizens to express themselves.
"We typically associate criminal defamation with authoritarian governments. There are a lot of Latin American dictatorships with criminal defamation statutes," said Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in Washington, D.C. -- in connection with a Kansas case. Washington Post editorial, Aug. 5, 2002 (BELOW)
In 1993, authorities in Saskatchewan dredged from the archaic files of the criminal code some defamation law and used it to prosecute individuals who were naming public officials. Saskatchewan's next step would be to tighten citizens' access to disclosure to the point where it is now policy for any unrepresented accused to appear before a judge and sign an undertaking not to publish it before being allowed to see it.
All of these Draconian measures have grown out of the Foster Parent trials. (Dracos was an old Greek who recommended severe penalties including death for certain transgressions about 4,000 years ago. He has since been reincarnated and lives in Saskatchewan.)
The first drops into the pond signalling the willingness of Canadian authorities to use extraordinary methods to silence people who were exposing their dirty secrets happened in Saskatoon, (where else?) in 1993.
For decades in Canada, Sections 300 and 301 of the Criminal Code were considered archaic hangovers from the days of duels at sunrise.
In 1993, John Lucas and his wife, Johanna were given court documents which clearly indicated to him that two eight year old girls had been systematically raped, sodomized and tortured with the full knowledge of the police, social workers and Crown prosecutors. He suspected it was still going on. He contacted all the proper authorities to express his concern and was not received well. Both MP Chris Axworthy and the StarPhoenix turned the videotaped and printed evidence he provided for them over to the Saskatoon police who responded with a harassment campaign against him.
He postered city streets with the information and eventually, he and Johanna picketed the Saskatoon Police station on two subsequent days whereupon they were arrested and charged under both Sec. 300 nd 301 and placed under thorough gag orders and restrictions on their rights to write, protest or even speak about matters relting to sexual abuse.
As it turned out, Lucas's concerns about the girls were well-founded. Even as he was being arrested the girls were being regularly raped by their brother. The situation went on for a full 43 months with the full knowledge of many officials. It went on from the time the girls were 8 and their brother was ten until they were 12 and he was fourteen. In blasé reports written by the cop and the social worker, this is referred to as a touching problem. Lucas called it rape, sodomy and torture.
The reason that the boy was being allowed to continue to rape his sisters would seem to have been a "reward" for his cooperation in providing, and coercing his sisters to provide then Corporal Brian Dueck and Crown proecutor Matt Miazga with videotaped testimony that the three of them had been the victims of an intergenerational incestuous Satanic cult ring. The three went to court against their parents and the foster families helping secure indictments, and they went to trial and testified to help put their parents in prison. The cases got out of hand by the time Miazga should have been ready to take the foster families to trial so proceedings were stayed. By this time the cops, the Crown (perhaps even the Queen herself) and the Social workers all knew that those they had accused were innocent, but instead of telling the public the truth, they suggested that because of the traumatization of the children they were having to let a bunch of guilty sex offenders go free.
John and Johanna Lucas went to trial and early in the proceedings Sec. 301 was declared unconstitutional by Judge Paul Hrabinsky. They were convicted under Section 300, did some jail time, lost their appeals at the Saskatchewan Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of Canada (April 1, 1998). Lucas recently filed a lawsuit which was dismissed. He is now suing the judge who dismissed it, Judge Hrabinsky
Richard Klassen and Sheila Steele took up the cause of bringing these matters to public attention and were arrested and charged August 27, 1994. We were demonstrating on the occasion of a whitewash from Alberta which had found no wrongdoing regarding David Milgaard. (The cops here still spread malicious rumours about his guilt: they have not had to apologize or pay a cent towards his settlement, either.) The material we published on the Internet when we first launched the website can be found here. (We were both acquitted but were denied our Charter rights for a very long time.
In 1998 we first started to run into the Lucas case being used by the Crown as an excuse for denying dislosure to people charged with minor criminal offences. Now this letter is routinely provided. Prior this we had seen some sulky tantrums from the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal.
Will this be a deadly storm or will it blow over quickly?
In January, 2002, we learned of two citizens in eastern Canada who have been charged under Canada's Criminal Code for criminal defamation.There may be more -- it is in the nature of shutting people up that other people don't hear about their cases. We wish these people well. Calvin Cumberland has already served his time but he should have his criminal record expunged FOR HIS CONVICTION UNDER SEC. 300. We hope Steve Osborne successfully challenges Sec. 301, which has been struck down in Saskatchewan. Please send any other Sec. 300 OR 301 charges you know of and their dispositions to us for posting.
ONE COULD BE forgiven for thinking that the day was long past when an American could be locked up for publishing an untruth about a public official. But recently, a jury in Kansas City, KS, convicted a newspaper, its publisher and its editor for the crime of libeling the mayor. The publication's behavior appears to have been irresponsible, and a civil libel suit seeking damages might well have been appropriate. But the idea of criminally prosecuting speech that does not endanger anyone is a creature of an earlier time. Though prosecutions under criminal libel laws are exceedingly rare, several states have such laws on the books. It is past time for them to go.
The Kansas case began when a gadfly tabloid called the New Observer published a series of articles alleging that Carol Marinovich, mayor of the unified government of Kansas City and neighboring Wyandotte County, was violating the law's residency requirement by not living in town. This was false and verifiably so. And had Ms. Marinovich sued, she might well have won a judgment. Instead, however, a politically allied district attorney brought a criminal case under Kansas's rarely used criminal defamation law -- and last month a jury convicted on several misdemeanor accounts.
Newspapers shouldn't knowingly publish harmful falsehoods; neither should anyone else. But the criminal law is the wrong vehicle to resolve even the worst abuses of this type. Criminal libel laws were designed originally as a way to prevent dueling; certain speech, even if true, was regarded as so inflammatory that men of honor would feel duty-bound to respond violently unless the state took action in their place. Preventing dueling is hardly a needed function these days, and in any event, the Supreme Court has insisted both that truth is an absolute defense against any libel charge and that good-faith errors may not constitute libel. Civil suits provide ample redress for those public figures who can show, within the exacting standards of the Supreme Court's case law, that they have been defamed. Additional criminal penalties can only serve as means for states to intimidate the press.
Prosecutions such as this are particularly anomalous given the fact that the court has broadly protected even categories of speech that may be truly dangerous. Urging violence can only be prosecuted if it is likely to produce lawless action imminently, for example, and threats in public discourse have to be clear before they are beyond protection under the First Amendment. It seems wrong, given this, to permit prosecutions for speech that does harm at worst to the reputation of individuals who have alternative remedies at their disposal.