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Howard Gowan (3)

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

(page 3 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

Now I don't offer that as a solution to the situation because I'm certain that that advice has been given to him any number of times over the years.

Indeed I think that the now Premier so suggested in 1975, and I think that I so suggested in my correspondence with him. But certainly if there is any resolution possible it must involve the RCMP. And so it is into that channel that I think this complaint should be moved.

I said to the member that I have a lot of sympathy with these cases because there is a psychology that surrounds them that doesn't enable people like Mr. Gowan to let it go. I mean it is so important to him that it must be dealt with and he will know no peace until it has been dealt with. So I have a good deal of sympathy. And I'd say this to the member. I'm prepared to work with you to try and see what channel is the most productive. And in that respect I think, for example, I could be certain that the federal Minister of

Justice is aware of this, that the Solicitor General is aware of this, because he's responsible for the police. Indeed he himself will be in town this weekend and early next week, and I could arrange to have a note put in his hands about this case.

I'm certainly prepared to work with you to try and do what we can for this gentleman, to see if there is a productive channel that could be followed which could lead to a resolution of his long-standing problem. I have the file on this matter. I've written to him twice. I wrote to him in 1992 and a copy of that letter was sent to you, to the member, and I held out no particular hope for him. I drew to his attention that the matter has been reviewed by the Ombudsman and several times by the Department of Justice, and considering that 25 years have elapsed, there appears to be little that can now be accomplished by further discussion or another review.

That was on July 17, 1992. Again I wrote to him almost a year later on June 24, 1993, and again I sent the copy to the member in which I also didn't hold out very much hope. I said: little can be done at this late date as files no longer exist and we are unable to locate many persons who were involved in your case. I wrote again on July 17, 1992 and . . . oh, I'm sorry, I referred to that letter earlier, July 17, 1992. Those are the two pieces of correspondence that I've had.

Oh yes, Mr. Moen refers me to an earlier letter to you on February 14, 1992, and you will have that letter before you. There's no profit in discussing the contents of that letter before the House. But I'd be glad to meet with the member and sincerely try and figure out what channels we can direct Mr. Gowan to follow. And if we can find a channel that might produce some measure of satisfaction for him, then I'd be prepared to cooperate with that. (1615)

Mr. Martens: — You mentioned a number of things, Mr. Minister, that I want to add to. And Mr. Gowan has written hundreds of letters, made just as many phone calls to all levels of government, police, and any independent agency he can think of. Human Rights Commission. Former provincial Ombudsman, Ernie Boychuck, not only supported his claim, but they have both recommended compensation for the actions taken against him. Mr. Gowan has tried courts. He's failed. He made four presentations to the Macdonald Commission on RCMP wrongdoing. He, as I indicated earlier, and you mentioned too that he had been in contact with the attorney general in the mid-'70s and when he was provincial attorney general; Kim Campbell when she was Justice minister, and others. But nothing seems to have been done to eliminate or solve the problem.

And I think that it's time to identify some of the concerns that I think we should be identifying. One is, is the RCMP, when it is acting on behalf of a Saskatchewan Mental Health Act complaint, is that under the jurisdiction of the Canadian government, or is that under the jurisdiction of the provincial government? And when RCMP act on the basis of a complaint laid by the . . . that fall under the provincial Acts and don't comply with those Acts, are they then acting on behalf of the federal government or a federal police force? And if so, then I would consider that to be . . . well I don't think that that's necessarily fair that we would lay that responsibility on them. And I think that that's an important thing that we need to consider.

And that's why the issue has moved from the federal government to the provincial government, to the federal government, to federal agencies of the federal government, and then to provincial agencies of the provincial government. And I think that we need to take a serious look at solving this problem. We can pass the buck here for a long time, and Mr. Gowan is 67 years old, and it will soon be of no effect for compensation to him personally if we delay and defer and delay and defer to any length of time.

I just want to add one other thing that I think is important to consider. I know that there was a person from Yorkton who had a problem with a highway contract in Saskatchewan under your administration, and nothing was done about it even though we had legal people saying that the individual, under law, was not required to be compensated. Yet you, under your administration, in the last few years have decided to compensate that individual for those losses that he received.

And I think that because this is a part of a compliance under the Saskatchewan Mental Health Act, that individuals acting on behalf of that Act then have the responsibility to comply with that Act, and therefore are within the framework of provincial jurisdiction. And I would say that that has to be considered as a part of it. And I would hope that you would have some observations about that.

Hon. Mr. Mitchell: — Well even acting under The Mental Health Act, it's my understanding that the RCMP are responsible for their own actions. And I won't add to that; I just simply say that.

But I want to restate my offer which I think the member is glad to accept, that we would get together perhaps after this session is over and see if we can work out some method of resolving this long-standing problem, particularly, as the member has mentioned, considering the fact that Mr. Gowan is 67 years old and the time available for resolving it is obviously short. And I'd be prepared to meet with the member and see if we can't figure out a way to get him onto a productive track and relieve him of the frustration that he obviously feels with respect to this long-standing grievance that he has.

Mr. Martens: — I'm going to, just for the record, read into the record the response that Mrs. Gowan received from the RCMP so that the public know too that they knew that they erred. This is written by E.L. Martin, commanding officer, F Division of the RCMP. And this was written from Regina, November 7, 1967.

It says: Mrs. Howard Gowan: We have conducted a thorough investigation into Mr. Gowan's . . . Some of this is very blurred. If you excuse me I will interject those words that I think are there. We have conducted a thorough investigation into Mr. Gowan's problem. We would like to extend our sincere regrets to you in the circumstances surrounding it, trusting that you have not been inconvenienced in the interim. We acknowledge that our member, strictly speaking, acted outside the authority in The Saskatchewan Mental Health Act.

Although examination of the circumstances at this time would probably not adequately compensate your concern, we hope you will accept our explanation in the same spirit in which we offer it. And he's not being light, but it leans that way, Mr. Minister. Our member had, on the day previous to conveying Mr. Gowan to the mental health clinic, contacted you by telephone requesting that Mr. Gowan call at the detachment office the next morning. Mr. Gowan was good enough to come in later the same day. Unfortunately however, our member was absent and an explanation could not be offered him.

The following day it was learned that Mr. Gowan had not come to town, so having received professional advice, our member travelled to your farm and asked Mr. Gowan to accompany him to town. Your husband accepted, whereupon he was examined at the clinic. It was the intention of our member to contact you as soon as possible after the examination. You were informed two hours later by personnel from the clinic and shortly thereafter by a sergeant at the Swift Current detachment. The member who attended your husband was unable to see you that day but travelled to your home the following day offering an explanation to your husband's brother in your absence.

In spite of failing to comply strictly with the D provisions of The Mental Health Act, we trust you will agree Mr. Gowan required medical attention.

It's again an assumption, Mr. Minister, that he wasn't saying things that were relevant. They didn't take the time to go look. And I have documents that show that the police didn't take the time to do that.

And I think it's shoddy investigation at the best. And even to not to try and understand the individual . . . He wasn't a person that was outside of the community that just walked in; he was well known in the community and had grown up there. His parents had lived there.

And so in spite of failing to comply strictly with the provisions of The Mental Health Act, we trust you will agree Mr. Gowan required medical attention. Our member, acting on professional advice, had in mind only the welfare of your husband, yourself, and family, and the general public.

We do offer you most sincerely our regrets at your not being informed immediately and as well for the failure of our member to comply strictly with the statutory procedure. And that, Mr. Minister, is why I think it's time, as I said earlier, that we address this issue as sincerely. And I will take you up on your offer to talk about this. And if there is anybody that I need to speak with, I will take that as advice that I want to have you provide to me and some help that we can have for this individual as he tries to solve what society did to him 27 years ago.

Hon. Mr. Mitchell: — Well I will certainly contact the member, I suggest when the session is over, and we'll get together and see what we can do about this.