July 29, 2002: The province has now settled $1.3M on John Popowich, the Saskatoon policeman who was recklessly charged with sex crimes against children in the Martensville case and against whom the charges were dropped when the children failed to pick him out of a line-up in 1993. Chris Axworthy, a federal MP at that time later resigned to take over the leadership of the NDP from Romanow.
Axworthy did not become leader. Fifth Estate broadcast Scandal of the Century just before the leadership convention in 2001. When he announced that the province would settle with Popowich and the other falsely charged from the Martensville case, he stated he had no intention of settling with the Klassens and Kvellos because the province could possibly still win its case.
Lorne Calvert, who became NDP leader, has made no comment on this case. His silence greatly compromises his integrity.
The background which appears below is from a letter Richard Klassen wrote to Mr. Justice Bayda while he was trying to make Saskatchewan Crown Prosecutors perfect their appeal against his acquittal on defamatory libel charges against Sergeant (now acting Superintendent) Brian Dueck of the Saskatoon Police. The acquittal was clean, a directed verdict based on the Crown's failure to make its case. Nonetheless, the Crown declared its intention to appeal the verdict, gave no reasons, and then abandonned the project after the Lucas conviction was upheld on April Fool's Day, 1997
1. This case arises out of criminal charges which were laid against sixteen people as the result of an investigation by Corporal Brian Dueck of the Saskatoon City Police where he and social worker Carol Bunko-Ruys interviewed the three Ross children who were clearly mixed up. It is clear to anyone who watches the many hours of taped interviews that Michael, who was ten and eleven at the time, was raping, torturing and sodomizing his twin sisters who were a year and a half younger.
2. At the first preliminary inquiry into this matter, Ross, Ross & White were ordered to stand trial. At the beginning of this hearing, Prosecutor Matt Miazga (right) told Judge Finlay that the Crown did not feel it had a strong case; he went on to say that he found his witnesses to be incredible. Judge Finlay told him not to be so hasty, ran the preliminary inquiry and ordered the accused to stand trial. (The proper thing for Judge Finlay to have done at this time would have been to quash the charges. His failure to do so at that time was the first judicial error in this ongoing drama. Although Ross, Ross and White were convicted in Saskatchewan Court of Queen's Bench, and their conviction upheld by Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, they were eventually acquitted by the Supreme Court of Canada which found the children's testimony to be incredible.)
3. At the second preliminary hearing, a full year later, eleven people who had been connected with fostering the children were ordered to stand trial.
4. Thirteen months later, two days before what was scheduled to be a four month trial was to begin, charges against all but one of the accused were stayed and Prosecutor Miazga told the press that the reason for doing this was the fear that the children would be traumatized by further Court appearances. When Judge Finlay ignored Prosecutor Miazga's stated loss of belief in his witnesses and reluctance to continue the case, it seemed to launch a whole bevy of Crowns bent upon overreaching themselves
5. I bring this up to point out that Matt Miazga wanted to stop this case when he no longer believed in it; that was the proper and legal thing for him to do. In the case at hand we find the Crown continuing to pursue a case which the first Crown prosecutor didn't believe in. Imagine if at the beginning of the Guy Paul Morin case, when it first became clear to the Crown prosecutor that he was saddled with witnesses whose testimony was full of holes and contradictions, he had said "I hesitate to proceed with this case because my witnesses are incredible." This would have been the proper thing to do and it would have prevented a lot of grief, not to mention public expense. Nonetheless, in our case, the prosecutor did make such a remark and the case proceeds, perhaps along a similar pathway.
6. After the charges against me were stayed in January, 1993, I poured through the Crown disclosure and discovered irregularities which I thought warranted a judicial inquiry. I wrote to ministers and other public officials, sent faxes and made telephone calls. John and Johanna Lucas took independent action. It was only after they were arrested and charged with defamatory libel that I began postering and eventually picketing. I would point out that nowhere in any of the Crown's disclosure did the children name me or my wife. My name simply did not appear and yet I was charged. It appeared that since I was a member of the foster family with a criminal record, they thought I would be vulnerable to prosecution since they did not have and do not have any evidence that I had any involvement in the original case.
7. In January 1994, along with others in the case, I launched a civil claim. The civil claim is proceeding through the courts and its purpose is very specifically to recover damages for the people who were hurt by this case. On the other hand, my attempts to bring the facts of this case to public attention are for purposes of public good. These are two separate and important matters and I have never had any difficulty knowing one from the other.
1. I would remind the Court that this case is not about murder or rape or even fraud: it is about words. On August 21, 1994, I deployed certain words which I believed to be true and still believe to be true. I had exhausted the channel of phoning and writing letters to all the appropriate authorities before taking to the streets. In fact, it was because of my actions as a citizen that Michael Ross was finally removed from the Thompson home in Warman where he was continuing to abuse his sisters.
2. I was very close to proving the truth of my words when my acquittal was directed because the Crown had not made its case.
3. My allegation that Sgt. Brian Dueck was responsible for the rape and sodomy of an eight year old girl was based on evidence which the Crown attempted to keep out of open Court. Judge Dielschneider had ordered the Crown to produce the principal parties involved and all the documents on which I based my allegations.
4. The Judge also ordered the Crown to produce the addresses of the children so that he could determine if I would be allowed to call the children themselves.
5. The disclosure issues were addressed in voir dire on the first day of trial. I have not received a transcript of this portion of the trial. This is a disclosure issue now and becomes a new disclosure issue if I am ordered a new trial. For now, though, I rely on my memory, which is very reliable: new information was disclosed to me at this time. This includes the fact that Kathy and Michelle were moved to different homes shortly after Michael was removed.
Lawyer Greg Welan has appeared as a shadowy and not-so-shadowy figure throughout this case. He represented the following:
i. The Department of Social Services when they removed from my sister Pamela a child she had fostered as an infant and was in the process of adopting in 1992
ii. Sgt. Brian Dueck both in the civil claim against him and during my defamatory libel preliminary inquiry.
iii. The three Ross children throughout these proceedings
iv. Marilyn Thompson, who fostered the three children during the taping of their testimony and throughout the Court proceedings where the children were involved
v. The Minister of Social Services, who, he claimed at my Defamatory Libel trial, had ordered the subpoenas to produce the children be quashed.
Is it not a conflict of interest for Greg Whelan to represent the Minister of Social Services, the Department of Social Services, the policeman who interviewed the children who were wards of social services, and the foster mother of those children, particularly when some of these clients are litigants in a civil claim and others are key witnesses for such claim?
Is it proper for the Minister to demand that subpoenas be quashed?
7. Judge Dielschneider was not impressed by orders from the Minister and instead ordered Mr. Welan to produce the addresses of the children. He observed that the children were now old enough to testify and was not persuaded that such appearance would produce in them any further trauma.
8. The case ended in my directed acquittal before I had an opportunity to call these witnesses. Should this Court award me the remedy of a new trial, disclosure will be the first issue on the agenda.
9. My defence was not ever based on my constitutional right to free speech. It was based on my assertion that I did not defame Sgt. Dueck: that I believed my allegations to be true and that I was prepared to defend the truth of those allegations.
10. The Crown appealed my acquittal on grounds of judicial error which it has failed to show.
11. On November 12, 1997, in Chambers, the Crown clearly stated that it is now relying on the Supreme Court decision in the Lucas case for its grounds in my appeal. This means it did not have any grounds at the time it appealed my acquittal. It was awaiting new evidence which, I would point out, is outside its legal right.
12. The Crown further stated that it could provide the Court with a factum on my case by simply changing Lucas's name to mine. This demonstrates that the Crown continues to confuse my case with the Lucas case when, in fact, the cases are quite different.
i. In the Lucas case the Crown set about to prove that the Lucases knew their statements to be false, that no reasonable person would accept such statements, etc. In my case the Crown studiously avoided the whole question of whether or not I knew my statements to be false -- I was the one who placed this issue on the record.
ii. The Lucases allegations were phrased as questions while I made direct allegations. A question and a statement are not identical.
iii. I was directly involved in this case insofar as I was related to the original foster family, was charged alongside them and personally knew Kathy.
iv. If the Crown thought our cases were so similar, they had the opportunity to try the two cases together. They chose not to do it, perhaps because they found the cases not to be so similar after all.
13. The Crown has had choices at every stage of these proceedings.
i. When I was first arrested in August 1994, along with two other people, the Crown could have chosen not to prosecute but to instruct the police to apply for an injunction to stop our picketing, which I understand is normal procedure when police deem a picket line to be illegal: get an injunction and let the Court arbitrate the legality of the picket. Instead the Crown chose to prosecute.
ii. The Crown chose to release us under an order that we be restricted from picketing or postering on any issue for the duration of the proceedings.
iii. When I appeared in Queen's Bench Court to ask to have my undertaking amended to simply restrict my right to comment to remarks about Sgt. Dueck, the Crown refused.
iv. When the charges on my co-accused, who used words very similar to mine, were quashed in Queen's Bench on Writ of Certiorari, the Crown could have stayed my charges, realizing their evidence was shaky. The Crown chose instead to proceed.
v. When I applied again to have the restrictions on my right to poster or picket removed from my undertaking, they could have complied. It chose instead to muzzle me.
vi. When the Lucases' case was moving up the judicial ladder to the Supreme Court of Canada, the Crown could have agreed to my request to postpone my trial and reinstated my constitutional rights to free speech awaiting the outcome. It chose instead to put me though the expense of a trial, for which I subpoenaed over a dozen witnesses.
vii. When I won a clean acquittal in the Court of Queen's Bench, the Crown could have stopped. It chose instead to appeal, although it had no grounds.
viii. In October 1997, when it became clear to the Crown that the Supreme Court was probably going to rule against it in the Lucas case, it could have dropped its appeal against me. It has chosen instead to ask the Court to punish me by waiting for another four months.
At any of the steps along the way, as outlined above, the Crown could made different choices which would have better served justice. Instead it set itself on a relentless course which may have begun as simple prosecution, but clearly changed to something else.
14. From where I have been sitting, it has felt like malicious prosecution and an attempt to spare no cost to silence me, even if it means starving me and my family.
1. Early in this case I was aware that my Charter rights as a citizen had been and were being abused. However, I view the Charter as a last venue for relief and fully believe that my remedies are to be found within the Criminal Code itself.
2. My strongest legal argument resides in Section 611. Truth is the defense against charges of defamation. However, the Crown has fought tooth and nail to prevent me from getting truth into a witness box and before a judge and jury. I allege that it has abused the legal process by so doing.
3. I have now reached the point where I fear that the truth as a defense has been taken from me by the Crown's actions. This violates my constitutional right to full answer and defense.
4. My right to freedom of opinion and expression [Charter 2(b)], Several of my rights as a person accused with an offence [Charter 11] have been violated. The persistence of these violations has resulted in a complete violation of my Charter 7 rights -- the right to life, liberty and security as a person. I have been prevented from clearing my name, in fact, from even using my name, and as a consequence of this have suffered attacks on my home, threats of violence and even death threats.
5. Since the Crown's appeal of my acquittal, a bad situation has become much worse and several minor violations of my constitutional rights as a citizen have snowballed into a major violation which I have no choice but to address.
1. On November 12 in Chambers, Prosecutor Brown stated that he did not believe he had a case, that he is almost positive that the Lucas case would be lost at the Supreme Court. The Crown clearly stated that it does not believe in its case and has offered no judicial error. Furthermore, if there are no grounds now, there were no grounds at the time of the appeal and therefore the whole appeal process is illegal. If the Crown does not believe it has a case, the proper thing would be for it to drop it. Since the Crown has not seen fit to do this, the proper thing for the Court to do is to quash it. In fact, to do anything less would be improper just as it was improper for Judge Finlay to order the accused before him to stand trial after the Crown had said it did believe its own witnesses.
2. Further, when the Prosecutor Brown suggests that I should wait until the Supreme Court brings down its decision, perhaps until March, he is suggesting that although he is almost certain that this case has been lost, he wants to keep my life on hold just in case the Supreme Court goes the other way. What could be the possible reason for this? I suggest it cannot be for any other reason but malice. I have been properly acquitted and for this the Crown now wants to punish me. This is not the kind of justice which citizens should expect from their courts.
3. As this case has worked its way to the Court of Appeal, several other cases have been brought to light. The David Milgaard case, Donald Marshall and Guy Paul Morin are examples where the Crown has overstepped itself by trying to build cases on shaky evidence at best and, at worst, no evidence at all. These overprosecuted cases have cost the Crown, and therefore, the taxpayers, millions of dollars. There must be lessons here and I humbly submit that one lesson is that if the Crown cannot learn from its own mistakes, a higher authority will have to teach it to them. So many mistakes have not only been let go by, but pushed up to higher Courts that one can only wonder where it will all stop. I suggest that it should stop right here.
4. The costly cases which I have just cited could have been far less costly if the Crown had stopped -- or been stopped -- and made appropriate reparations when they first realized they were on the wrong side of justice. Instead, just as Corp. Brian Dueck became Sgt. Brian Dueck after wrongly prosecuting myself, and many others, so the Crown prosecutors continue to advance in their careers, even after doing great damage, even ruining people's lives.
5. Perhaps there was nothing personal in the Crown's prosecution of me; rather it was seeking to make an example of what they can do to people to silence them when they disagree with the words they say. In response to this I offer the suggestion that it would be fitting that there be real and tangible consequences for them when they overstep their authority in such prosecution. I would be pleased to help brainstorm some creative suggestions which would be in keeping with the transgressions while serving justice.
6. In practical terms, those Crown prosecutors who have relentlessly prosecuted me have their bills, car payments and mortgages paid and will be able to provide their families with a nice Christmas. In contrast, this will be the fourth Christmas where I will rely on charity to decide how pleasant it is and where the only dignity I have left resides in the knowledge that I have, at every step of the way, tried to do the right thing. . . .
. . . I believe that the justice system works. It works when prosecutors and police do their jobs properly which means following procedures and correcting mistakes. In the course of this case I have encountered several officers of the court who have sought to persist in mistakes rather than admit that they have made any. This is difficult to deal with and can lead to loss of faith in the Justice System. I have also encountered officers of the Court who have understood my concerns and have been sympathetic to them. However, the best that they have been able to offer me is the assurance that "everybody is doing the best they can." This is not reassuring. If what has been done to me is the best the justice system has to offer, we are all in deep trouble. I do not believe that everyone has done the best they can. But I do believe that if the rules are properly followed, and those who have made mistakes are called upon to account for their mistakes rather than cover them up for fear of loss of promotion or career or pension, justice can prevail. I still believe it can prevail in my case. Back to Scandal of the Century
On April 1, 1998, the Supreme Court ruled on the Lucas case. It was a 9-0 decision against John Lucas. This was the decision and outcome that the Saskatchewan Crown prosecutor was waiting for. Now they could proceed with their appeal of Klassen's jury acquittal for defamation. Instead, they dropped the case, once more denying Klassen his day in court. After figuring out just how to do it, Klassen and I launched this website in June. Numerous attempts were made to keep us off the Internet. (In typical Saskatchewan fashion the authorities went behind our backs and threatened our servers while claiming to the media that we had crawled through some legal wormhole through which we could not be legally removed until they figured out how to do it. By the end of July, we had the website safely secured on a paid American server.)
Through our efforts on the Internet, we have broken through the cone of silence, found the child witnesses who have confirmed all our original suspicions and confirmed that all the defamation charges arose out of fraudulant deception of the courts, including the Supreme Court of Canada.