The provincial government is “fundamentally wrong” to support a defamation lawsuit against a man wrongly accused of ritual child abuse, the Saskatchewan Party said on Tuesday.
The province announced last week it would appeal Court of Queen’s Bench Justice George Baynton’s malicious prosecution judgment against justice and police officials rather than settle with the 12 innocent plaintiffs.
The government is also appealing Baynton’s dismissal of a defamation lawsuit brought against plaintiff Richard Klassen by Crown prosecutors Matthew Miazga and Sonja Hansen.
“Why are they doing this at this point in time? These people are not wealthy people. Richard Klassen said he’s got a Grade 7 education. These people did their best to try and clear their name and to go back after them, what are they going to do? If they get a judgment against them are they going to go and seize their assets?” said Saskatchewan Party Justice critic Don Morgan.
In 1991, Klassen, his wife and others were accused of sexually abusing three Saskatoon-area foster children, with bizarre allegations that included detailed accounts of satanic ritual abuse.
Police arrested 16 people in 1991, but charges against 12 individuals were stayed in 1993, while Richard’s father Peter Klassen pleaded guilty to four counts of sexual assault.
The children later recanted almost all of what they had alleged, and the oldest foster child was found to be abusing his younger sisters.
Baynton ruled in December that Miazga, child therapist Carol Bunko-Ruys, and Saskatoon police officer Supt. Brian Dueck had maliciously prosecuted the plaintiffs. The suit against Hansen was dismissed.
Morgan said the government should also apologize and come to a compensation settlement with the Klassen family.
There may be legitimate legal reasons to appeal the ruling but the Klassen family should be left out of it, he said.
“They’ve gone through a decade of hell and it’s time to let them get on with their lives,” said Morgan.
Justice Minister Frank Quennell said Tuesday that he was sorry for what the Klassen family had gone through but the government cannot apologize for the nature of the prosecution while the appeal is before the courts.
It’s not feasible to separate the defamation counterclaim from the larger appeal, he said.
“The defendants who have a counterclaim are continuing with the counterclaim. I think they feel the allegations they are crooked and fabricated evidence are defamatory,” he said.
“I don’t think the libel suit is completely within my control in any case.”