Saskatchewan gov’t won’t drag out victims’ suffering

SASKATOON — The Saskatchewan government is willing to discuss the possibility of interim payments for Richard Klassen, Diane Kvello and their family members who won a malicious prosecution lawsuit, Justice Minister Frank Quennell said Wednesday.

Responding to Klassen’s declaration this week that he will seek interim payments on damages in the civil suit decided in his favour in December, Quennell said: “The government is not interested in dragging out the suffering” of the Klassen and Kvello families.

“The government of Saskatchewan is willing to listen to proposals or suggestions from the plaintiffs to address fairness issues prior to the appeal being heard,” Quennell said.

Earlier Wednesday, both sides met in court to set a date for a trial to determine how much money the plaintiffs should be awarded.

Justice George Baynton scheduled the six-week trial to begin on Sept. 13.

However, Donald McKillop, lawyer for two of the defendants, said his appeal of the ruling should be heard before damages are determined.

The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal will decide which procedure happens next, after it hears from the parties in Regina next Wednesday.

“Appreciating that the damages portion of the trial won’t take place for a few months, the appeal won’t be heard for a few months … These are the practicalities. In the interim, we are certainly open to discussion,” Quennell said.

But the justice minister, who is also the attorney general for Saskatchewan, stopped short of saying the government will give the plaintiffs what they are asking for.

“I’m not suggesting that we’d be making an interim payment. I’m saying we’re open to discussions. I don’t want to say what the outcome of those discussions would be,” Quennell said.

Quennell said the government doesn’t want to do anything that could jeopardize the appeal.

“Any concern I have about settlement discussions and any other matter is only about compromising the appeal. Anything we can do that does not compromise the appeal, I’m open to talking about, and the government of Saskatchewan is open to talking about. There may be things we can do,” he said.

The 12 plaintiffs were charged in the early 1990s with bizarre allegations of child sexual abuse and ritual abuse of foster children.

A year and a half later, the charges were stayed and the children have since recanted, admitting the accusations were all lies.

On Dec. 30., Klassen and 11 others won the civil suit brought against Crown prosecutor Matthew Miazga, police Supt. Brian Dueck and child therapist Carol Bunko-Ruys for malicious prosecution. Justice George Baynton ruled that the prosecution had been “a travesty of justice.”

Quennell said he supports the appeal brought by the lawyer for Miazga and Bunko-Ruys because the ruling changes the test for malicious prosecution and could have far-reaching effects for social workers, teachers and self-governing professions.

The plaintiffs understood that the trial to determine damages would happen before any appeals were launched.

They are seeking interim payments to see them through the time, probably several years, that appeals will wend through the courts.

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