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Justicia award

This story got prizes and rewards for many

Justicia winners

Group of winners! (Back row: Dan Henry (CBC lawyer), Harvey Cashore, Producer and Howard Goldenthal, associate producer for Scandal of the Century. Front row: Toronto Star print winners.

Congratulations to all of us: Linden McIntyre, Harvey Cashore, Howard Goldenthal, (fifth estate), Michael and Michelle Ross (heroes who came forward) and inJusticebusters (Richard Klassen and Sheila Steele) for getting out the story and winning broadcast journalism's triple crown: the Michener, the Justicia and the Gemini! Ask your librarians, social studies teachers and university profs to buy the video and show it to anyone who wants a crash course in (in)justice or just wants to watch a great show!

Share our joy as we take a giant step closer to uncovering the truth in Saskatchewan!

Justicia plaque

The Justicia Awards are sponsored by the Canadian Department of Justice, the Law Commission of Canada and the Canadian Bar Association to acknowledge the important role that media play in enhancing public understanding of the legal system.

This year's awards cover stories that were published or broadcast between May 16, 2000 and May 15, 2001.

The entries were judged by Justice Anne-Marie Trehan of the Quebec Superior Court, Wade MacLauchlan, President of the University of Prince Edward Island and Dr. Stuart Adam, Vice-President (Academic) of Carleton University.

In the broadcast category, the winner is The Scandal of the Century , by the CBC's fifth estate. Harvey Cashore was the producer and Howard Goldenthal the associate producer.

In the early 1990's, fourteen adults and two young people in Saskatchewan were charged with sexual abuse of nine children. For the accused it meant shattered reputations and broken lives. The story documented how the justice system failed the innocent people, falsely charged with sexual assault and pedophilia.

The judges said the program was "truly a startling story about the difficulties of crime investigations. Carefully told, the documentary shows the difficulties of determining the facts when children are involved." The jury gave the report top marks for its "comprehensive, all-encompassing approach, despite the many complexities involved. The report is highly educational. In sum, it was a television reportage on the justice system without equal."

The above is from the press release issued by the Canadian Department of Justice, the Law Commission of Canada and the Canadian Bar Association during the CBA's annual meeting in Saskatoon August 11. inJusticebusters Sheila Steele attended the awards luncheon at the Centennial Auditorium, watched the presentation and listened proudly as Cashore and Goldenthal spoke of the specific obstacles Saskatchewan set up to try and block the telling of the story and personally thanked those of us who helped get it told.

As the lawsuit arising from this case launched by Richard Klassen in 1994 moves through discovery, Saskatchewan Justice continues to use dirty tricks to try to keep the full story from coming out. The most recent was in January, 2001 when they obtained a judgment against Klassen fining him $1,500 for having publicly disclosed material obtained through the discovery process. Klassen's lawyers failed to make clear that Klassen had not published such material. (Klassen fired his lawyer, Ed Holgate, Nov. 7, 2001. Since then, he has managed to move the discovery along in preparation for a jury trial. Peter Klassen and Michael Ross filed a lawsuit which was dismissed by Judge Mona Dovell in March. He was ordered huge costs.)

The discovery process has revealed that Saskatchewan Crown prosecutors failed to give the defence important information prior to trial (charges were stayed just days before the lengthy trial was to begin.) The Saskatoon Police had done a full investigation in the early 1990s and had concluded that there was no case against 15 of the 16 who were indicted, and only a weak case against the 16th. Corporal Dueck went ahead and ordered the interprovincial arrests and announced that he had uncovered the potential "Scandal of the Century."

We also now know, without shadow of doubt, that the Crown was aware that Michael was sexually aggressive against other children and that he had possibly been molested himself by a friend of his birth parents before he and his sisters were ever placed in the home of Dale and Anita Klassen. We have many reports which indicate that Social Services found Anita Klassen to be a heroic foster Mom who should receive a medal!

Crown prosecutor Matthew Miazga told the media that he was staying the charges because the children were "too traumatized to continue." In fact the Ross children loved going to court and had no say in the stopping of the proceedings. They received no more counselling, giving lie to the crown's claim. Miazga was confident that the truth would not come out because the court documents were ordered sealed.

inJusticebusters defied the seal, the court ordered ban on publication. We published the facts of the case and the names of the persons involved. Sask-Tel denied us Internet service under pressure from officials and we obtained a U.S. site. Two years later,fifth estate followed our example and used the sealed material to tell the prize-winning story.

The honour of the Justicia Award gives a clear signal to officials in Saskatchewan that their casual, malicious lying is not approved by their peers. Defence lawyers should take note of this and be more forward in challenging prosecutors who shade their cases under judicial cloak. Judges should give closer consideration to non-publication orders.

In particular, Chris Axworthy should pay attention. He tried his damnedest to shut down the fifth estate and then decided that he did not want to risk the national exposure charging them would bring. Instead, he has gone after regional CBC and StarPhoenix reporter Dan Zakreski for breaking publication bans in two separate stories: an interview with a party in Jack Ramsay's attempted rape case (Ramsay pled out on this case in October, 2001 just before the trial was set to begin) and a profile of FAS young offender Serena Nicotine who was convicted in the brutal death of Helen Montgomery. Both these stories broke bans in the service of the public interest, giving human faces to stark stories. The charges have continued the chill on honest reporting in Saskatchewan. We hope that the government fails in its efforts to convict these parties and that defence lawyers do not capitulate to "professional" arguments from their colleagues in the prosecutors' office. Reporters must be free to investigate and to publish what they find.

We must remember that Bob Mitchell released the name of the young person charged (and later acquitted on appeal) in Martensville on a North Battleford radio talk show, then resigned as Justice Minister. Romanow excused this gaf as an honest "slip of the tongue" and restored his portfolio. Axworthy doesn't fear his tongue will similarly slip; he has a mantra "I cannot discuss the matter while it is before the courts," and he just says it, over and over, with a demeanor so smarmy he has wrecked the standard cliché for future cover-up technicians. There are rumours afoot that Axworthy will quit provincial politics to run for the leadership of the federal NDP. Citizens, be warned!

Already the Saskatoon Police Commission has set about to clean up the police service, a huge and daunting task which must ultimately uncover some uncomfortable truths about decades-long corruption. We trust that Dueck, who is now one of the most powerful officers in the force is losing influence. Once the police understand that they can no longer rely on the judiciary to back their illegal actions they will have no choice but to stop. Judge Laing's condemnation of Dueck's Rambo-like tactics was ignored a year ago. Future such strong comments from judges will more likely be heeded. (ah, as of April 17, 2002, Dueck is still top superintendent in Saskatoon Police Service. New chief Russell Sabo has been singularly ineffectual.)

But wait. As of November, 2001, two cops, Hatchen and Munson were convicted of unlawful confinement in the dumping of Darrell Night near the Queen Elizabeth Power Station. They were fired and acting chief Jim Mathews made the unwise comment that this was an "isolated incident" not likely to happen again. Meanwhile the cops had been cleared in the deaths of Lawrence Wegner and Rodney Naistus. Hatchen and Munson took the witness stand a few days later at an inquiry into Naistus' death, claimed they had nothing to do with it and patted themselves on the back for having come forward in the Night case. Of course, they didn't "come forward" at all. Night had got their car number wrong and questions were being raised about other officers. And Night had dropped his health card in the taxi, providing evidence of the truth of his claim. These unrepentant cops had asked for a sentencing circle before testifying at the inquiry.

While it is true that the dumpings, known as "The Starlight Tour", seem to have stopped, let us not forget that in the spring of 2001 there were several shootings of Aboriginals, a couple implicating Saskatoon police. (Inquests have been ordered in the Melvin Bigsky and Keldon McMillan shootings).

Saskatoon will swear in a new chief next month, a fellow from Calgary who has built his career on the concept of community policing. The Globe and Mail is in the midst of publishing a 14 part series by John Stackhouse on racist apartheid, starting with a feature on Saskatoon. We see that it is members of Dueck's old platoon who gave him the "inside scoop" to Saskatoon's west side.

We will be continuing to post more of the background to these stories -- confident that there is huge support in Canada for telling it. Newspapers turn into birdcage liners, videotape fades, but the Internet is forever.

Sep. 14, 2001: Sheila Cameron from CBC Radio told inJusticebusters that the winning of this award had been announced on the radio. As far as we know this is the only place that it has been mentioned in any Saskatchewan media, broadcast or print.