There is no doubt that Helen Ross was in need of help when Social Services aprehended her children and placed them with Dale and Anita Klassen. She was a deaf alcoholic who had married a much older man, also deaf, and before the union fell apart, they had given birth to three children, Michael on October 18, 1979 and twin girls Michelle and Kathy, March 4, 1982.
The squalid story is fairly accurately told in the Supreme Court of Canada Decision which orders Helen and Don Ross new trials and acquitted Helen's new companion, Donald White, a "hearing man".
The children's lives were terrible and inJusticebusters has evidence that the Rosses had an elderly deaf friend, Frank with a record for child sexual assault. It is very likely that this man Frank, assaulted at least Michael. Don Ross's own testimony discloses that he had tied Michael up and that he had no insight whatsover into children. This information would have turned up in an elementary investigtion. It was given to the Saskatoon City Police and they did not investigate.
While there is certainly enough evidence to show that Social Services did the right ting in apprehending the children from Helen -- she was an alcoholic mother -- there is absolutely no evidence that she sexually abused her children or was responsible for any of the acts she was charged with.
Nonetheless, when the case was given to Corporal Brian Dueck, he set about to cast a wide net and catch as many defenceless people as he could. He prepped the kids, who were very disturbed and responded to the attention he and contract therapist Carol Bunko gave them (including rewarding them with meals at McDonald's).
We know that Dueck executed a search warrent at the homeof Helen Ross and Don White and seized family albums and father's day cards. They did not return these items. They found no evidence of satanic cult activity, for which they had sworn the information to search.
Over the course of several days in late October, 1990, Dueck and Bunko took the children to the "soft room" at the Saskatoon Police Station and recorded their carefully prepared stories.
The children named over 40 people in this carefully-led videotaped testimony. For some reason, the Crown charged only 16, including Helen Ross. Helen's own lawyer, Jack Hillson said of her in his closing argument "I have to concede that if all of our mothers were like Helen Ross, it is doubtful that we would have set aside a special day in their honour..."
Hilson did not have full disclosure. He and the lawyers for Don Ross and Don White took the disclosure they were given as leverage to shift the blame for the "crimes" on the foster parents. That was the crown's strategy. There was an atempt to shift blame for crimes that never happened.
Hilson also left Helen in Pine Grove, (the women's correctional facility in Saskatchewan) for sixty days because he forgot to file her appeal bail!
Saskatchewan Social Services utterly failed Helen Ross. Then the Saskatchewan Justice System moved in on a woman in need of help and instead of helping her, tried to turn her into a criminal. Even reporters critical of the handling of the case jumped on Helen Ross. In his Globe and Mail article, Dave Roberts says: "The foster-child cases began 1987 when a deaf couple, unskilled, unschooled, communicating only with signs, were unable to manage their three children and came to the end of their rope. The woman, 28, had a serious drinking problem. One day she ran away with her lover, leaving a son, 8 and two daughters, both 5."
Sgt Brian Dueck should go to prison for what he did to Helen R.! His sentence should be lengthy and a good bit of it should be served in solitary!
Roger Kergoat for Don R, Don Mullord, Morris Bodner and Don McKinnon for Don W. and Hillson for Helen. Perhaps the defense lawyers would have provided a more vigorous defense for these three people if they were not so poor and uneducated. They were found guilty of crimes that are not even acceptable among the the lowest of the low in jail.
For the men, it was surely bad: Helen was sent to Pine Grove. There, she was kept in "protective costody." This sounds sensible enough on the face of things: a woman found guilty of sexual assault and incest against her own children would not be safe in general population. But in Pine Grove, "protective custody" is the same as isolation in the "Hole" - - cells off the laundry room in the basement. A dungeon. Helen spent six weeks longer in closed custody than the men (more than two months). . .and her entire time was in Pine Grove's hole! Hillson simply forgot to get her out! If not for Johanna Lucas phoning Pine Grove and Hillson many times Helen might have languished much longer at Pine Grove. Her life was very much in danger. Inmates and staff alike believed she was guilty of fucking her own children! Johanna Lucas reports that when she went to Pine Grove to serve her time for the defamatory libel conviction, the staff was still convinced of Helen's guilt, even though Helen had been ordered a new trial by the Supreme Court.
Lawyers advised Helen, Don and Don not to talk about their case to anyone -- thus closing off avenues which could have been helpful to them. Richard Klassen (left), John Lucas (right) and I visited Helen in spring 1994 and showed her the videotapes of her children in the soft room with Brian Dueck and Carol Bunko-Ruys. Helen clearly did not understand what had happened. She was delighted to see her children, if only on tape. It is almost certain that Helen R has no idea what the system has done to her children! Michael was a difficult child when she lost custody of him. But Dueck and Bunko-Ruys turned him into a monster.
Helen was extremely disadvantaged before Brian Dueck and Carol Bunko-Ruys disadvantaged her further. The lawyers who defended her were well paid for their services. The judges who erred in their decisions received their salaries. The Saskatoon StarPhoenix provided sensational reporting of the case but did not even report that Helen and Don R were deaf! They sold lots of papers, though, and continued to sell papers as they moved over to sensationally report on Martensville. They have never set the record straight about this case, except for fulfilling their promise to print Don White's story if he passed a polygraph test -- which he did. The reporter, Doug MacConachie moved to the sports page and at the point when strong pressure from a newspaper could have made a huge difference, the story ran out of steam.
Helen R. did not get her new trial the Supreme court said she was entitled to. And does anyone convicted of heinous sex charges against children ever get a fair hearing in the Court of public opinion?
Update: Michael is in Saskatoon. The StarPhoenix did eventually publish a feature on this June 19, 1999. Since publication of the story, Michael has became even more twitchy. He tried to strangle Michelle and when she filed charges, they failed to pick him up for two months. When they did arrest him, they didn't bother to put on his undertaking the routine restriction that he have no contact with her. His case does not come up until May, 1999.
He did go to jail. And he came to understand that his life would be easier if he told the truth of what he had done. He has been out for a year now and he is doing well.
--Sheila Steele, Dec. 14, 1999