SASKATOON — Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Ellen Gunn testified Wednesday she had absolutely “no memory” of the Klassen child sex abuse case of the early-1990s, even though she was Saskatchewan’s director of public prosecutions at the time of the charges.
Gunn, wearing business attire, spoke clearly and deliberately while on the stand Wednesday at the malicious prosecution lawsuit trial filed by 12 of the people wrongly accused of child abuse.
It’s rare to see a current Queen’s Bench justice sitting in the witness box. It’s particularly unique because Gunn was questioned by a man with just a Grade 7 education, self-represented plaintiff Richard Klassen.
Gunn told Klassen she was the supervisor of the province’s Crown prosecutors when the charges were laid in July 1991. Charges included more than 70 counts of incest, gross indecency, and sexual assault against Klassen and 15 others.
The case was dubbed “scandal of the century” at the time and garnered much media attention.
She stayed on as executive director until being called to serve as a Queen’s Bench justice in December of that year.
Gunn testified Wednesday she remembers nothing about the case.
She said she doesn’t remember if she saw the case file in 1991 and doesn’t remember what was said in two phone conversations she had with prosecutor Matt Miazga about the case that year.
In her notes made at the time, Gunn writes she had two phone conversations with Miazga “re: sex abuse charges — foster parents.”
But her notes don’t contain any further information about their conversation.
“The only information that I can tell you, Mr. Klassen, are the notes that I have referred you to,” Gunn said.
“I have no memory of the conversations which led to those notes being made, and I have no other memory of having any information about this case.”
She repeated this statement in slightly varied ways several times, and was on the stand for approximately 15 minutes in total.
The case began in 1990 when siblings Michelle, Kathy and Michael Ross made horrific accusations against their foster family — the Klassens — and a number of other adults. The allegations included stories of animal mutilations, baby killings and graphic descriptions of sex parties involving adults and children.
As a result of their accusations, the Ross’s foster parents, Dale and Anita Klassen, were charged, as well as many of their relatives and the children’s birth parents.
Most of the charges against them were eventually stayed in exchange for a guilty plea from Dale and Richard Klassen’s father, Peter.
The children admitted in recent years and again in testimony this week that they lied, and that none of the Klassens ever abused them.
Twelve of the adults are now suing prosecutors, police, and therapists involved with the case for $10 million, alleging malicious prosecution. Gunn is not named in the suit.