An advance payment of $1.5 million has been made by the Saskatchewan government to members of the Klassen family who were falsely accused of abusing foster children more than a dozen years ago.
The money will be split amongst 12 members of the family, who were asking for $10 million in damages. It is not a settlement, however.
“It is an amount that we are accepting for some of the pain and suffering that has occurred and certainly legal fees,” Richard Klassen, the man who spearheaded a successful lawsuit, told The Canadian Press.
Klassen and 11 others were charged in 1991 with ritualistically abusing foster children — allegedly forcing them to eat eyeballs, drink blood, participate in orgies and watch newborn babies get skinned and buried.
Klassen, who is currently on welfare, said he will use the money to pay back his in-laws and replace his 1982 Chevrolet.
The family recently won a malicious prosecution judgment in December against three civil servants involved in the case — a Saskatoon police officer, a Crown prosecutor and a child therapist.
While Saskatoon’s police chief has apologized for his department’s role in any suffering by those who were wrongfully accused, the province didn’t follow suit.
The province has launched an appeal of the judge’s decision. It feels the judgment excessively widens the boundaries of what can be considered malicious prosecution.
It’s likely the issue will eventually wind up in the Supreme Court of Canada, both sides have said.
Klassen and provincial Justice Minister Frank Quennell are scheduled to meet next week.
Charges in the case were laid in 1991, although the story began in 1987.
The three children, a boy and two girls, were placed in a foster home.
The boy was removed from the foster home for being emotionally and physically abusive to his sisters.
In an attempt to get back into the home, he told police about abuse suffered at the hands of the family. And his sisters backed up their brother’s story.
The three claimed they were forced to drink blood, participate in orgies and other ritualistic activities.
Most charges were stayed by 1993, supposedly to reduce the trauma to the children. The children, now adults, have recanted their stories.