REGINA – The Saskatchewan government refused today to apologize to 12 people falsely accused of sadistically abusing foster children in Saskatoon.
Justice Minister Frank Quennell also said the province will challenge – all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary – a recent civil court decision that found the 12 members of the Klassen family were maliciously prosecuted.
“No apology,” Quennell told a news conference at the provincial legislature.
“It is our position that the Crown prosecutors did not commit a wrong and there is no reason they would be required to apologize in that circumstance.”
He noted the Justice Department is not part of the lawsuit and was barely mentioned in the judge’s decision.
Richard Klassen, the family member who spearheaded the lawsuit against investigators, was furious.
“What am I supposed to do? Hang myself on a light post in downtown Saskatoon to get my point across?” he said.
“I think I did right. I think the judge said I did right by coming to the courts where it belonged and I won. What more do they want from me?”
The Justice Department’s stance is in stark contrast to the one taken by the Saskatoon police department.
Yesterdayk, police Chief Russell Sabo apologized to the 12 members of the Klassen family and promised a review of the case by an outside law firm.
The Klassens were charged in 1991 with abusing the children – a brother and his younger twin sisters – in bizarre and demonic ways.
The children said they were forced to eat eyeballs, drink blood, participate in orgies and watch newborn babies get skinned and buried.
Saskatoon police called it the “scandal of the century” at the time, but most of the cases never made it to trial.
By 1993 most of the charges were stayed to avoid further “trauma” to the children.
But, as the years passed, the children came forward publicly and recanted their accusations.
The boy, who had been abusive to his sisters himself and was removed from the family’s care, said he had made up the allegations because he was frustrated and wanted to be reunited with the girls. He said he coerced the sisters into backing up his fantastic tales of abuse.
Until the ruling last week by Queen’s Bench Justice George Baynton, no official had acknowledged the family’s innocence. Sabo’s apology was the first.
Baynton called the case a “travesty of justice.”
“It is almost beyond belief that none of those involved in the prosecution of the plaintiffs stood back, so to speak, and asked themselves if any of this made any sense and whether it could reasonably be true,” Baynton wrote in his 196-page decision.
Richard Klassen represented himself in the lawsuit.
Over the course of the ordeal his health has deteriorated. He has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, which he has yet to have treated in any major way, and he has developed an addiction to sleeping pills.
He said he fears that fighting an appeal will kill him.
“They are probably hoping that,” Klassen said.
“But I’m ready to go. If they want to go, let’s go.”