This case represents 5½ years of work on the Internet and 5 years before that where we tried to get this story to the public. Court seals and publication bans rarely serve the public interest. In this case, dishonest police, prosecutors and social workers deceived many honest officials by keeping the case secret, trusting that their unethical conduct would never be revealed.
The media was chilled. Whatever publicity we received seemed to be intended to damage us. After the fifth estate told its version of the story (a prize-winning piece of broadcast journalism, but definitely not the whole story -- after all, they had only 44 minutes in which to tell it) Dueck's lawyer set about to take us down one more time. His failure to do so was covered by Les Perreaux. This was the beginning of breaking through in the local media. Perreaux left Saskatoon shortly after this took place.
The Saskatoon Police Service is going to court to stop a controversial Internet site from publishing details of one of the city's most infamous and secretive cases involving false allegations of sexual abuse.
The city lawyers who represent the police will ask a judge Tuesday to order the Web site to stop publishing banned details of the so-called foster child case, including the names of two child complainants that have already been revealed on the Fifth Estate television program.
The application also seeks to put a gag on an inJusticebusters.com Web site publisher who was one of those falsely accused. He and 12 other falsely accused people are suing police and prosecutors for $10 million. Through the lawsuit, inJusticebusters.com has gained access to videotapes of interviews and court transcripts that have remained under court-ordered seal.
"None of it should be sealed. None of it," said Sheila Steele. "We don't put out anything that is going to damage anybody," added Steele. "Getting public officials to own up for their actions is not damaging anybody. They shouldn't be able to hide behind secret orders," said Sheila Steele, another publisher of Injusticebusters.com.
The police force "is claiming that we are like vigilantes, that we are operating outside the law. That is so wrong. I don't think that any free speech activity has ever been categorized that way," Steele added.
The police are also asking a judge to put a stop to "scandalous, frivolous and defamatory" accusations that are made against police, prosecutors and judges on the site.
The foster child case surfaced in 1991 just before the now-infamous Martensville scandal. Sixteen people were charged with 60 counts of incest, gross indecency and sexual assault. In the end one elderly man pleaded guilty. In exchange the Crown dropped charges against most of his relatives. His conviction was the only one to stand in the case.
Since 1991 a small group of people have flouted libel law and numerous publication bans to accuse police officers, Crown prosecutors, judges and journalists of concealing mishandling of the investigation by police and prosecutors.
The case has remained under a briefcase full of court-ordered seals and publication bans but Injusticebusters.com has been publishing full accounts and harsh accusations for three years.
Justice Paul Hrabinsky, a judge who has long been accused by Injusticebusters.com of running "a secret court," recently ordered that parts of the police force's application be sealed from public view.
According to Steele, the Web site is already ignoring an order from Hrabinsky last month to stop publishing, but she said that order is also part of the sealed file.
Steele said no court order will ever stop Injusticebusters.com from publishing. "I have heard they have asked for jail time for anybody who defies the order. I can't take it seriously. Everybody already knows about this and there is nothing they can do now," said Steele, who formerly taught English at the University of Saskatchewan.
"It's a joke. It has been a joke, it's been a cruel joke against the people who've been hurt, which includes the original child witnesses that they claim to be protecting. That may be the cruelest joke at all. It has to be defied and exposed."
Injusticebusters.com was banned from SaskTel's Internet service. Steele said provisions are in place to ensure the site continues to publish even if she is sent to jail.
On Friday one of the former complainants repeated his contention that, as a child, he invented the allegations under prodding by police. He also said he wants his name and all of the facts of the case to emerge. His sister has made similar statements in the past.
"I'm quite all right with it," said the former complainant, now a 21-year-old man. "We've got to get somewhere with this. We need closure. I'm an adult now. I'm not five or six years old; I can think for myself. I'll be damned if someone is going to sit there and tell me how to think and how to act anymore."
The man and another former complainant in the case, who is now an adult, admitted to The StarPhoenix in June 1999 that they fabricated the allegations. This fall they appeared on the CBC program Fifth Estate, agreeing to have their names published, along with full account of the facts of the case, in spite of the ban that remains in place on their identities. The program used videotaped police interviews that are sealed but have been made public by Injusticebusters.com.
In the report the Fifth Estate said the children's identities were broadcast in spite of warnings from Saskatchewan's Justice Department because the public interest, along with the wishes of the children, were more important than an eight-year-old ban.
Justice officials and the Saskatoon police said Friday there are no plans to pursue a prosecution against the CBC. The city hall lawyer who is representing the police could not be reached for comment.
The StarPhoenix has continued to honour the ban because the paper's lawyers say it is still in effect. As well, the paper has not published the names of the complainants because publishing their names would indirectly identify some of the falsely accused, including children, who wish to remain anonymous.
A less high-tech approach to criticizing how the case was handled has resulted in jail time for two people, John and Johanna Lucas. They were each sentenced to nearly two years in jail in 1995 after they were convicted of defamatory libel by Hrabinsky for a pamphlet and picket campaign they used to level accusations against the police. Their conviction under the rarely used law was upheld in higher courts.
We thank SP for publicizing the website and chastize them for continuing to respect the ban which they clearly state is unenforceable since no one is charging the Fifth Estate. Free speech is the real story. SP has aligned itself with Superintendent Brian Dueck's lawyers by continuing to give in to the "ban".
It has also given untrue reasons for not publishing Richard Klassen's name. In another SP article by Les Perreaux, November 1996 reporting on Klassen's directed jury acquittal for defaming Dueck, Klassen's name was not published and the article was misleading enough to persuade many people in the community of Harris, where he lived, that he was guilty. The family was driven out of town. The reason given then for keeping his name secret was to protect the identity of the children. Today Perreaux gives his reason as protecting the identity of the falsely accused! This is simply not true. From day one Richard Klassen has asked that his name be made public so he can openly clear it!
StarPhoenix is practising tabloid journalism by continuing to refer to Klassen as "one of the falsely accused" and Michael Ross as "former complainant." There is nothing in this story which does not have a name which can be used. The "know what I mean, nudge, nudge. . ." approach simply fuels the idle tongues of gossip-mongers who like to make out that they know something others don't. People who want to be informed can read the material on this site and refute innuendo with fact.
Today's SP article is also inaccurate in that it says the material inJusticebusters has published was gained through the lawsuit. We have not received nor have we published discovery material. We have published the disclosure material which was originally used to falsely charge 18 innocent people. The public has an interest in this material and the process by which the defendants in the $10M lawsuit have managed to keep it secret for so long. We understand than in many cases the discovery process is not public. This is one case where we have already discovered all that we need to know to prove our assertions. We have decided that the public must know the full story, see the source material and judge for itself. If we found anything new through the discovery process that we deemed part of a cover-up and in the public interest, we would then decide what to do.
SP reporter Dan Zakreski was part of the Fifth Estate show which helped to bring this story to national attention. He wrote the one story which was thorough, accurate, and made sense even though the names he used were not the real names. The SP is on the wrong side of free speech in this story. The lawyers who advise them are not serving them well. In turn they are not serving freedom of the press.
Subject: Your article
Date: Mon, 15 Jan 2001 14:13:32 -0600
From: Les Perreaux <firstname.lastname@example.org>
It's a strange thing, writing to someone else about an article they've written about me. ..
Just a couple things... It's not Richard Klassen our lawyers are protecting. From my reading of the lawyers' summary of our position, it's the other accused family that doesn't want their names known. I'm no lawyer, so I'm not exactly sure why identifying Rick Klassen and/or the former kids would necessarily serve to identify them, but there you have it.
Our lawyers have advised us that some of the bans are still in force and of effect. It's our editors' decision to follow that advice.
You're correct that our position has changed since '96. In '96, it was the kids we were supposedly protecting. When Dan got consent from Michael and Michelle last year, he thought that would get around the bans. But others who were charged and were also under bans were not interested in publicity. Our lawyer summarized it by saying they were likely to pursue legal action. Don't know about that myself.
I know you don't agree with our position, but I just wanted to clarify things.
You are absolutely right about the effect of no name coverage of ANY case. It doesn't really protect anyone. Unfortunately this is how the law and newspaper practice have evolved.
About saying material came from the lawsuit disclosure, I should have written that Rossmann et al are accusing you of that. I should have put the accusation to you so you could refute it, but I overlooked it when we spoke.
I'll set it straight tomorrow. Of course I'll probably accidentally plant another dozen landmines in this aweful, twisted story.