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Howard Gowan (2)

31 year old case: all damage, no remedy . . . yet

(page 2 of 3)

On April 19, 1994 Howard Gowan's case was put before the Saskatchewan Legislature. We are reprinting this in full, including then-justice minister Bob Mitchell's promise to address it. Behind closed doors, of course.

Howard Gowan

Well, Mr. Minister, I believe he received that answer in 1993. And I also want to say that I raised that question -- I raised it . . . (inaudible interjection) . . . 1993. And I also want to say that I raised that same matter with the Department of Justice when our party was in government.

And the answer that I got from the Justice minister's office was that . . . and this is a letter written by the member for Estevan, who was the premier, under information received from the attorney general's office. I understand that matters you have raised involve the RCMP in the '60s and those concerns were dealt with at that time. The RCMP files relating to incidents during that period of time have long been destroyed.

And, Mr. Minister, what I believe is important in this discussion, that we need to have are some other factors that occur in the history of not only this case, but there was a case in Montreal where individuals through the armed services were given compensation for some of the experimental drugs that were used in their cases. And they were each given $100,000 in compensation for those kinds of things that happened at that time.

Now I personally believe that our society owes Mr. Gowan compensation for these kinds of things. And I'm not going to ask you here today to spell out if that compensation could be or could not be given. But I want to raise it with you, Mr. Minister, because I'm going to continue to raise it as he has raised it for the last 27 years, that it is an important part of what I believe we should be thinking about in how to compensate these kinds of individuals for the misuse that there was of authority, and a clear acknowledgement on the part of the RCMP that there was a negligence on their part in dealing with it and that they apologized for -- and the word that they use in their documents, that they apologized for the word "inconvenience" it may have caused them.

I just think it's important for us to understand that some of this inconvenience was related to by Madeleine, which is Howard's wife. She said that . . . she recalls the day of her husband's release: He was like a walking skeleton. Many of his past memories, everything from his family to his work to his hobbies, had been erased from his mind and he had to be taught over, Madeleine says.

The RCMP sent the family an apology three months after Gowan's release. In a letter addressed to Madeleine, then-RCMP commissioner E.L. Martin expressed his "sincere regrets . . . trusting that you have not been inconvenienced."

Now that is a very, very serious error on the part of society. Now this was not . . . this didn't have anything to do with your party being in power at the time in 1967, nor mine. So I think in order to have some view of this established, I want to ask the minister if he would take it upon himself to review this case with the view of in some way compensating for this individual's problems that he has had in relation to the society not being fair with him and not treating him in a way that would initiate some positive responses on his behalf.

And I raise this because he has raised it with me on any number of occasions. And also I asked him whether I should raise it here and he asked me to do that. So I am raising it here on his behalf, and I will continue to raise it, Mr. Minister, as we go through the next year or two for that same consideration.

And again I point out, if I would have had an opportunity to have the information available to me when I was on that side of the House, I would not be asking you to do it today because I would have asked at that time. But it was only given, as I understand it, in November of '93, and that information we always thought was gone, and it had not been there. So I'd like to have some observations from you on his matter.

Hon. Mr. Mitchell: -- I am familiar with this case because I believe that I wrote to Mr. Gowan and I think when the member refers to a letter received in 1993, it must be my letter. The Premier wrote in 1975 when he was attorney general and obviously that letter wasn't delivered in 1993. I mean we've got slow mail service in this country, but not that slow. So I think it must be my letter. And I've sent upstairs for a copy of it and I'll be able to discuss that, the letter that I wrote to him, when the copy comes down. But in the meantime, let me embark on some kind of answer for the member.

These old cases are -- by old cases I mean they've been around for so many years -- are difficult to, for people like you and I, to deal with here in our time, dealing with the actions of others long since gone or long since retired from their careers; it's so difficult to reconstruct events, and it is awfully difficult to bring these cases to a close because they've been raised over and over again over the years through any number of routes and agencies. And that's certainly been the case with Mr. Gowan, as it has been with any number of other people who have visited the member and visited me and visited other members over long, outstanding grievances which have not been settled by the system. One of the problems that the province has always had with this complaint of Mr. Gowan is that he is complaining about the actions of the RCMP. And that's, of course, a federal police force and we are simply not responsible for any of their actions or, if I may use the term, alleged misdeeds. We're simply not legally responsible. And you can say to Mr. Gowan that his complaints ought to be taken up with the RCMP and with the federal government.