September 12, 2014

Pedophile priest convicted in Nunavut: Dejaeger facing long delayed jail time.

Dejaeger finally convicted

There is good news for sexual abuse victims of former oblate priest Eric Dejaeger. He was found guilty today on 24 of the 68 charges he was facing in Iqaluit.

The priest pleaded guilty to eight sexual abuse charges last November. So Dejaeger will face sentencing on 32 convictions sometime early next year.

Some charges dismissed

Unfortunately, some of the children who claimed that he assualted them did not receive justice. Dejaeger was not convicted of all of the churches due to concerns the presiding judge had about the evidence presented by some of his alleged victims.

Justice Robert Kilpatrick said:

"The quantity and quality of the evidence available to the court in this case has been substantially weakened by the passage of time. The reliability of the Crowns evidence on many counts is suspect. This is reflected by the results of this trial."

Delay caused by abuser

The unfortunate fact is that one of the reasons for the extended delay in this case was due, in great part, to the fact that Dejaeger fled Canada and hid in Europe for more than two decades.

You can read more of the details in my article: Nowhere to hide: Internet helps bring sexual abuser to justice.

Dejaeger pleaded guilty to sexual abuse charges in Nunavut for sexual assaults that happened between 1982 and 1989. He pleaded guilty in 1990 and was released from prison in 1991.

In 1995 RCMP charged the priest with a number of sex crimes involving children from Igloolik. The priest was released on his own recognizance with a promise to return to court. He never showed up.

Hiding in Europe

In fact, Dejaeger had fled to Belgium. The Canadian embassy asked Belgium to return Dejaeger. But nothing was ever done.

In 1998 Interpol issued an arrest warrant. But the warrant was never acted on.

RCMP issued a warrant for his arrest in 2002. Still nothing was done. Dejaeger continued to live openly with the Oblate religious community in Belgium.

A great deal of the credit to finally getting police to act goes to Sylvia McEachern who runs the blog Sylvia's Site, which blogs about the sexual abuse crisis facing the Catholic church and other relgious organizations.

Ms. McEachern's efforts to publicize the injustice facing Dejaeger's victims was a factor in finally forcing law enforcement officials to take active steps to extradite Dejaeger back to Canada.

Belgium government not cooperative

In June 2010 Interpol issued another warrant. Even though there is no statute of limitations for the crimes Dejaeger was facing in Canada, the Belgium government considered Dejaeger a citizen and refused to extradite him because the statute of limitations for the sex crimes he committed in Canada had run out in Belgium.

Not a citizen

In 2011 Belgian police finally realized that Dejaeger no longer held Belgian citizenship. He was a Canadian citizen having given up his European citizenship when he came to Canada.

Extradited

Dejaeger was finally extradited to Canada in January 2011 where his criminal charges have slowly made their way through the courts.

Uncertain memories caused by passage of time

So after 20 years of hiding in Europe is it any wonder that the memories of some of his victims are a little foggy after more than four decades?

Congratulations to all of the survivors who had the strength to testify against Dejaeger and received convictions today. I hope all of his victims receive some solace in the fact that Dejaeger will, at long last receive the punishment he deserves.

June 19, 2014

Halifax Foster Parent Charged in Child Porn Case

The Chronicle Herald has reported that Roy Franklyn Newcomb has been arrested and charged with possessing and accessing child pornography.

The charges came about after a student at NSCAD (where Newcomb has worked for thirty years) found a USB thumb drive containing pictures and videos apparently depicting child pornography. Police were called in and computer forensics officers uncovered twenty images and nine videos depicting child pornography.

At the time of his arrest Newcomb was a foster parent and apparently has been for many years.

Anyone investigating the foster home?

This immediately raises the question about whether the Department of Community Services, which regulates foster home placements in Nova Scotia, is conducting an investigation. One would hope that all of the former foster children who have been placed in the Newcomb home will be contacted and interviewed as part of a wider investigation.

The foster child who was in the Newcomb home at the time of Newcomb’s arrest has been removed from the home. A court order forbids Newcomb from being within 50 meters of any playground, schoolyard, pool or any other area where children are known to frequent. He is also prohibited from having contact with any children under the age of 16 unless the child is with a parent or guardian and he is prohibited from using any device that has internet access.

June 4, 2014

Home for Colored Children Compensation Program Adopts Indian Residential School Model

Class action settlement announced

A 16 year fight for compensation ended yesterday when the Province of Nova Scotia and former residents of the Home for Colored Children announced the details of a class action filed by former residents.

About 140 former residents of the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children filed a class action seeking compensation for what they describe as years of neglect and emotional, physical and sexual abuse suffered by children in the school.

Last year the Home itself agreed to pay up to $5,000,000.00 to former residents. Yesterday’s announcement says that the province will be setting aside up to $29,000,000.00 to compensate survivors.

Adopts Indian Residential School compensation model?

Few details of the compensation program have been released to the public. However, according to Tracey Dorrington-Skinner, who was interviewed today on CBC’s Information Morning the compensation model sounds a great deal like the one approved by the courts in the national Indian Residential Schools (IRS) class action settlement.

Two parts to compensation model

Ms. Dorrington-Skinner said today that all of the former residents will receive a payment of $10,000.00 if they can prove that they resided at the home. That payment will increase depending on the length of time that the children were forced to live in the school.

According to a report by the Chronicle Herald anyone who was in the Home 40 days or less, will receive $1000.00. If they were in the Home up to a year they will receive $10,000.00. Anyone who was in the Home for longer periods will receive $3000.00 for each additional year.

This part of the Coloured Home settlement follows the IRS model almost exactly. the The payment, like the common experience payment that formed a part of the IRS settlement is being made to recognize the appalling conditions the children were forced to live in while residing in the home and to recognize, at least in the case of the IRS settlement, that the Residential School System was inherently racist.

Compensation for Physical and Sexual Abuse

According to Ms. Dorrington-Skinner, children who suffered serious physical or sexual abuse in the school will also be entitled to apply for additional compensation.

Again, this models the IRS class action settlement. Under the Individual Assessment Program (IAP) IRS survivors are entitled to apply for additional compensation of up to $325,000.00 plus proven income loss if they suffered harm as a result of serious physical or sexual abuse by an employee or another former resident of the school.

Arm’s length administration

One of the key components of the IRS settlement is that the compensation program and compensation payments are not managed by the defendant, Canada. An arm’s length entity, the Residential School Secretariat, was created to manage the claims process and pay survivors.

There is no indication in the details that have been released so far about whether the Colored Home settlement includes the creation of a neutral arm’s length authority to manage the claims process. However, given that the parties appear to have adopted the IRS model it seems logical to assume that the process will also include a third party to manage, validate and assess the claims.

Truth and Reconciliation

Another fundamental part of the IRS class action settlement was the creation of a Truth and Reconciliation commission to explore and investigate what happened in the residential schools, document survivors stories, and create a public record to help educate future generations.

Premier Stephen McNeil has announced that the province intends to embark on a public inquiry. Although the province has not set the terms of the inquiry, as of yet.

Having participated in Truth and Reconciliation hearings on behalf of the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School survivors I can say without a doubt that the TRC hearings for many survivors have been the most important part of the class action settlement process.

Looking to the future

For Ms. Dorrington-Skinner, and the other former residents of the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children, yesterday marked the end of a very long fight for recognition of the harm that they suffered in the school.

The children that suffered physical and sexual abuse will still have to go through a further process to validate and compensate their claims. However, if the parties have adopted the IRS model in its entirety I can say that the Colored Home survivors should be able to receive a fair measure of compensation in a private and confidential process and avoid the time, cost and stress of adversarial and ublic litigation.

May 21, 2014

Residential School Survivors Concerned Their Private Abuse may become Public

One of the transformative experiences of my legal career has been representing Nora Bernard and the other survivors of the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School. Ii has been an honour to represent Nora (RIP) and more than 600 former residents of the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School in Nova Scotia for the past 18 years.

Nora Bernard filed the first class action against Canada seeking compensation for all former residents of a residential school.

Nora and the Shubenacadie survivors eventually joined other survivors from other schools in other provinces who worked together to create the National Indian Residential Schools Class Action Settlement. At the time it was the largest class action settlement in Canadian history and I believe to date it is still the largest historical redress settlement in the world.

I had the privilege of sitting on the Steering Committee that helped negotiate the terms of the national class action settlement. The class action included an Independent Assessment Process (IAP), as a way former residential school students could have their claims of physical and sexual abuse heard, validated and receive compensation for the terrible harm they suffered as children.

Promise of Confidentiality

One of the fundamental principles of the IAP was its confidentiality. Residential school survivors had kept the secret of their terrible experiences in the residential schools for decades. Therefore, in order to ensure as many survivors as possible would feel comfortable participating in the IAP, all of the parties to the agreement promised that survivors stories and experiences would remain private and confidential.

In fact, every IAP hearing starts with all of the parties participating signing a written promise obligating the parties to maintain the confidentiality of the proceedings and the stories and experiences that residential school survivors testified to in their hearings.

Is the TRC trying to break a promise?

Therefore, it has come as a shock to many residential school survivors that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was set up as part of the Indian residential school settlement process, has gone to court seeking an Order forcing the IAP Secretariat to produce the records and transcripts of the thousands of private hearings that have taken place across Canada as part of the IAP.

The terms of the national class action settlement requires that all records be destroyed after completion of all of the IAP hearings.

While there are some residential school survivors who have received counselling and have now come to terms with what happened to them in the schools and are able to speak publically about those experiences, most residential school survivors are still terribly ashamed of what happened to them as children. For them, the privacy and confidentiality promises that were made to them in order to participate in the IAP are tremendously important.

It is worth pointing out that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission says that it does not intend to make survivors statements open for public review. Rather the TRC claims that they want the records to “be archived with the National Research Center”.

Promises made

Residential school survivors were promised if they participated in the IAP their stories of terrible physical and sexual abuse would be kept confidential and their privacy respected.

There is nothing wrong with the TRC wanting to create a record of the abuse that happened in Residential Schools.But if the TRC wants to keep a record of survivor stories then they need the permission of each and every residential school survivor!

Any survivor that does not want their story archived should be entitled to rely upon the promises made to them that those records would be destroyed once the IAP process is completed.

Irony

It is terribly ironic that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a body that was set up to help and encourage reconciliation between residential school survivors and the rest of Canada is now the source of fear and confusion and potential broken promises to residential school survivors.

May 13, 2014

Halifax Soccer Coach Convicted of Sexual Assault Shows Need for Oversight by Sporting Organizations

The Chronicle Herald reported yesterday that Konstanty Bedoa-Gorski a director and coach of a Halifax based program for high performance teen soccer players was sentenced to two years in prison for sexually assaulting one of his players, a 14 year old girl.

Family ripped apart

Judge Michael Sherar said Bedoa-Gorski took advantage of a dedicated player who was hungry for extra training and groomed her for sexual satisfaction. Judge Sherar said that Bedoa-Gorski’s actions had “ripped apart” the victim’s family.

Trust

The Crown Attorney, Richard Deveau made an important point that parents who have children in amateur sports need to think about. The Herald quoted Deveau:


“parents across the country place their trust in coaches and instructors every day when they drop their kids off at activities.”

This point is one that I have raised before, for example in my article for Lawers Weekly: Sports and Scouts at risk of Liability for Sexual Abuse.

Abuse crisis started with catholic church

Starting about two decades ago the catholic church faced an avalanche of claims in Canada and the rest of the world by thousands of victims of childhood abuse by priests. The claims were a terrible lesson, showing the vulerability of children and the need for better supervision of employees and volunteers by employers.

Vicarious liability for sexual abuse

The Supreme Court of Canada in Doe v Bennett ruled the Catholic Church could be held vicariously liable by sexual abuse by one of its Priests:

“Para28: First, the Bishop provided Bennett with the opportunity to abuse his power...

Para 29: Second, Bennett’s wrongful acts were strongly related to the physiological intimacy inherent in his role as Priest...

Para 30: Third, the Priest conferred an enormous degree of power on Bennett relative to his victims...”

Chief Justice McLaughlin stated in paragraph 32:

“The enterprise substantially enhanced the risk which lead to the wrongs of the Plaintiff-Respondents suffered. It provided Bennett with great power in relation to venerable victims and with the opportunity to abuse that power....”

Sports organizations at risk

Religious institutions aren't the only employers at risk of liability for sexual abuse claims.

In my earlier article I suggested sports organizations need to be concerned about the potential liability for sexual abuse of children athletes by coaches.

Theo Fleury showed incredible courage going public with his history of sexual abuse by his junior hockey coach, Graham James.

In his autobiography “Playing with Fire” Theo Fleury showed just how vulnerable amateur athelets are to manipulation by their coaches, saying:

"The most influential adult in my life at the time was telling me that what I thought was wrong was right. I no longer had faith in myself of my own judgment."

When will courts impose liability on employer?

Whenever the courts have imposed vicariously liability on an employer they focused on three factors:

1. The physical or psychological intimacy inherent in the relationships;
2. The vulnerability of the victim; and
3. The power and authority granted to the abuser by the employer.

Amateur sports organizations need to beware

All of these factors are present in the amateur sporting realm. It goes without saying young children who want to impress their coaches can be vulnerable to psychological manipulation and intimidation.

In instances where children are hoping to perform at competitive levels, the demands for individual attention greatly increases the power and authority that coaches have over child athletes.

Most religious organizations now have strict sexual abuse prevention policies that have rules, for example, preventing employees from being alone with children. But so far few sports organizations have implemented similar policies.

I would suggest sports organizations need to voluntarily implement these types of supervisory programs or, like the catholic church and other religious organizations, be forced to do so after financially crippling litigation.

April 24, 2014

Employers Knowledge of Sexual Abuse may be a Double Edged Sword: Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of Saint John’s v. Guardian Insurance

Today the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear an appeal from a decision of the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal: Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of Saint John’s v. Guardian Insurance

The case is interesting to those of us who represent survivors of childhood of sexual abuse because it illustrates the challenges in recovering compensation for survivors.

In many cases the abuser has little or no assets or is dead. Often a survivor’s only hope of receiving some measure of compensation for their injuries is by pursuing the institution that employed the abuser.

Vicarious liability of employers tricky to prove

Whether an employer will be held vicariously liable for wrongful acts of employees (specifically sexual abuse) has been a difficult issue when representing survivors of sexual abuse. Traditionally, the view of the courts was that employers were not responsible for acts committed outside the scope of the employee’s employment. Since sexual abuse is clearly outside the scope of any type of employment employers were typically not held responsible (vicariously liable) for sexual assaults perpetrated by employees.

In 1999 the supreme court of Canada outlined the circumstances when an employer would (and would not) be held vicariously liable for sexual abuse by an employee: Bazley v Curry and Jacobi v. Griffiths.

"The employer knew it was happening!"

In order to avoid the difficulty of proving vicarious liability plaintiffs usually seek to prove a claim of direct liability against the employee. In most cases it is common for the plaintiff to plead that the defendant “knew or ought to have known” about the abusers conduct in order to try to establish a claim for negligence.

Knowlege impacts insurance coverage

However, if the plaintiff is successful in establishing the defendant employer’s knowledge of the abusers conduct it can impact on insurance coverage.

Case in point is the decision from Newfoundland and Labrador involving the Diocese of Saint John’s and its insurer, Guardian Insurance.

In 1989 the plaintiff, John Doe, sued the Diocese of Saint John’s and it’s Archbishop for compensation for abuse that John Doe suffered as a result of sexual assaults perpetrated by a priest employed by the Diocese, James Hickey.

The Diocese turned to its insurance company, Guardian, for indemnification and defence under its policy of insurance.

The insurance company denied liability on the grounds that the Archbishop or the Diocese knew or ought to have known about Hickey’s sexual misconduct and failed to communicate this knowledge. Having knowledge of Hickey’s conduct and failing to report was a breach of the Diocese obligations under the policy according to Guardian Insurance.

The insurance company was not able to find enough evidence to support this defence and eventually entered into a consent order to defend and indemnify the Diocese from claims made as a result of Hickey’s abusive acts.

Between 1992 and 1997 other persons came forward claiming that they had been abused by Father Hickey. Guardian Insurance eventually became aware of additional information that was filed as a result of the new claims that suggested that Archbishop Penney and other officials from the Diocese had knowledge of Hickey’s improper sexual activities.

Guardian subsequently claimed that Hickey’s assaults were not covered by the policy because the Diocese knew of his conduct and failed to report it to the insurer.

The Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador allowed a motion by the Archdiocese to strike Guardian Insurance’s defence. The court ordered Guardian to defend and indemnify the Diocese.

Guardian appealed. However the Newfoundland Court of Appeal dismissed Guardian’s appeal finding that the insurer was required to both defend and indemnify under the policy.

The claim was subsequently appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada which released its decision today denying leave to appeal.

Why is this decision of importance to abuse survivors?

But for the consent order that Guardian enetered into, it is possible there would have been no insurance coverage available to pay the plaintiffs' claims.

In this case, the Diocese likely had assests that could be liquidated, if necessary, to pay the claims.

In cases where the defendant actually has assets available to satisfy a judgment the availability of insurance may not be a determining factor in whether to bring forward a claim.

However, in cases where the employer is out of business or has limited assets (for example in the case of a charity) counsel for the plaintiff needs to weigh carefully the advantages and disadvantages of pleading knowledge on behalf of the defendant employer and needs to consider what impact that may have on potential insurance coverage.


February 28, 2014

Will a Public Database of Pedophiles Protect Children? The answer may surprise you.

The federal government recently introduced legislation to create a public database of child sex offenders.

The bill increases the sentences for child sex crimes and requires sex offenders to provide information when they travel and also facilitates information sharing between various law enforcement agencies.

As an advocate for survivors of childhood abuse I support legislation increasing the penalties for child sex offences.

As a father I would want to know if there are any high risk sex offenders living in my neighborhood. So the public database is something that I expect will have a great deal of public support.

However, as a lawyer I have to question whether a public database of sex offenders will actually reduce child sex crimes and protect children.

American experience

Most American states have databases of registered sex offenders that can be searched online by the public. Some of these registries have been in place for decades. So there is a fair amount of data available to determine whether public registries actually reduce the incidence of sex crimes.

Registration vs. Notification

The research indicates that there is a clear distinction between the effectiveness of registration verses notification.

Registration requires convicted offenders to register with local police so that law enforcement can track offenders whereabouts.

Notification involves notifying the public when an offender moves into a neighbourhood or providing public access to sex offender databases.

The propsed Canadaian legislation contains both registration and notification requirements.

Registration of sex offenders

J. Prescott from the University of Michigan and Jonah Rockoff from Columbia University studied data from fifteen states over a 10 year period in their paper Do Sex Offender Registration and Notification Laws Affect Criminal Behavior?

The authors of the study found that registration helped reduce sex crimes. In small communities forcing sex offenders to register with police reduced sexual offences by up to 13%. The authors found that the more comprehensive the registry the greater the effect in reducing offences.

Since laws require registration only for people who have already been convicted of an offence the reduction in crime was due solely to discouraging recidivism among convicted pedophiles. Registration had no effect in preventing first time offenders or in preventing serial offenders who had never been caught/convicted.

Notification increases crime rate

The authors found that in states that required Police to notify the public when a sex offender moved into a new neighborhood the laws actually had the effect of increasing recidivism rates.

The authors speculate public notification may provide some deterrent to first time offenders.

But notification programs appeared to make it more likely for past offenders to commit offences again. The authors specifically looked at states that had registration programs and added public notification and they noted these states tended to experience higher sex crime rates after adding public notification programs.

What is the reason for the increase in crime rate?

It does seem counterintuitive that notifying the public about sex offenders could result in an increase in crime rates.

The authors of the study speculated that:

“Convicted sex offenders become more likely to commit crimes when their information is made public because the associated psychological, social, or financial costs make a crime free life relatively less desirable…”

So what should the government do?

Although a public database of sex offenders may appeal to the public the government should focus its efforts on registration laws that enable law enforcement officials to keep track of sex offenders rather than publicly naming and shaming pedophiles.

Even though we may think that a public database is the right thing to do because it gives us the perception we are protecting our children, the facts from those jurisdictions that have past experience with these types of programs tell us that public databases of sex offenders is likely to increase the risk to our children.

So what do you think? Are you in favour of a public database for sex offenders?

February 25, 2014

Catholic Archbishop in Alberta, NWT Apologizes for Residential School Abuse: Irony Abounds

CTV News has reported that Archbishop Richard Smith of the Archdiocese of Edmonton has issued a formal apology for the Catholic Church's role in running the Indian Residential Schools.

Smith said:

“...we the Catholic Bishops of Alberta and Northwest Territories apologize to those who experienced sexual and physical abuse in residential schools under Catholic administration.”

Canada apologized

As part of the National Indian Residential School class action settlement, in 2008 Prime Minister Stephen Harper, on behalf of Canada, issued an apology to all former residents of residential schools. Various church leaders throughout Canada have followed suit apologizing for their role in the appalling legacy of Indian Residential Schools.

No apology from the Pope

It is worth noting that in 2009 the Pope met with Canadian Indian Residential School survivors, including some of my clients from the Shubenacadie Indian Residential school. Read my article: Pope Apologizes (Sort of) for Abuse at Indian Residential Schools for the full story.

Pope Benedict chose to simply express sorrow for the suffering of children forced into Indian Residential Schools, with no acknowledgement of the role the Catholic church played in causing the pain that Indian Residential School survivors carry.

This most recent apology is coming a few weeks before the final event by the National Truth and Reconciliation Commission which is set to take place from March 27 – March 30, 2014.

Real apology or window dressing?

All residential school survivors will have to judge for themselves what value they place on the Archbishop's apology. However for me, the apology is rather ironic given that just three weeks ago National Media reported that the Federal Government has been forced to sue the Catholic organizations that ran the Indian Residential Schools to get them to pay their share of the national class action settlement.

As part of the Indian Residential School class action settlement all of the religious entities that ran the residential schools agreed to pay 25 million dollars towards the cost of the 2 billion dollar settlement. Some critics suggested that since the catholic Church ran most of the Residential Schools, the Catholic church should contribute more than the other religious entities involved in the class action.

The Anglican, Presbyterian and United Churches have all met their financial obligations.

However, Canada is now pursing legal action against the Catholic Church seeking to recover 1.6 million dollars which was supposed to go toward the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.

Further, Mike DeGagne the former executive director of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation says that the Catholic Church has contributed almost none of the 25 million dollars they were supposed to contribute to the overall Indian Residential School settlement.

Conclusion

Apologies are a valuable part of the healing process. However, apologies must be backed up by actions. In the case of the Catholic Church it appears that the church is happy to offer words but fails miserably when it comes to baking up those words with cash for the victims of residential school abuse.

December 13, 2013

Saint John - Estabrooks Class Action filed

I have been retained by Robert Hayes to file a proposed class action against the City of Saint John, the Saint John Police Department and the Saint John Police Commission.

For more than 30 years Kenneth Estabrooks preyed on children and youth in Saint John. Persons in authority turned a blind eye, or worse, covered up his sexual activities.

Estabrooks has destroyed hundreds of lives. Tragically some did not survive. Many of his victims have never been able to achieve their full potential because of the harm caused by his abuse. The ripple effects of his assaults have touched spouses, children and other family members of his victims.

Estabrooks can no longer be held accountable for his actions.

But Bobby hayes and the other Estabrooks survivors are taking control of their lives. They are demanding answers and accountability from the institutions and employers that allowed Estabrooks to destroy so many young lives.

For decades Estabrooks victims have suffered in silence. But Hayes is Breaking the Silencehttp://www.apmlawyers.com/breaking-the-silence-the-survivor-s-guide-to-sexual-abuse-claims.html. He is speaking up on behalf of all the survivors who cannot. I admire and respect his courage.

This class action will allow Estabrooks' survivors to receive closure and compensation for what happened to them.

You can read a copy of the pleadings filed on behalf of the survivors here

If you would like more information about the Estabrooks class action or would like to join the class action you can contact me confidentially or call toll free 1-866-423-2050.

November 10, 2013

Lest we forget

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September 26, 2013

Estabrooks Sexual Abuse Survivors Plan Class Action Against City of Saint John

When I was little, one of the first things my parents taught me was that there are some people you can trust when you need help; your parents, your teachers, and above all, the police. This message was reinforced by our schools and public safety announcements on television.

Unfortunately, for dozens of kids who grew up in the poor south end of Saint John, the local police officer was the last person in the world you could trust.

Predator policeman

Global News has been conducting an investigation in to allegations of sexual abuse by former Saint John police officer Ken Estabrooks. Their investigative report “A City’s Shame: Relieving Childhood Sexual Abuse” airs Saturday night, September 28, 2013 on Global TV. You can read a preview of the report here.

Saint John police

Ken Estabrooks was a police officer employed by the City of Saint John in 1960s and 1970s. Inexplicably, in the mid 1970's Estabrooks was transferred from the Saint John Police Department to the Saint John City Works Department. There was never any public explanation as to why a long-term police officer suddenly lost his job and was transferred into the anonymity of City Works.

In 1999, Estabrooks was charged and convicted with indecent assault and sentenced to six years in prison.

Secretly transferred

During the trial, one of Estabrooks’ former co-workers, Detective Herbert Robertson testified that in 1975 two children have filed complaints alleging that they have been sexually abused by Estabrooks. According to Robertson, the Police Chief at the time, Eric Ferguson ordered Robertson to investigate the allegations. Robertson testified that Estabrooks confessed to sexually abusing the children.

However, instead of being charged with sexual assault or being fired from his job with the City, Estabrooks was quietly transferred to the City Works Department where he continued to be employed until his conviction in 1999.

Survivors come forward

We have been contacted by survivors who allegedly were sexually abused by Ken Estabrooks when he was a police officer. The survivors describe how Estabrooks used to prey on the poor and vulnerable kids who grew up in the south end of Saint John. Many of the survivors describe horrifying acts of sexual abuse by Estabrooks.

Other survivors describe how the sexual abuse continued even after he was transferred into City Works.

After our investigation, I have become convinced of the legitimacy of these survivors’ claims.

Class action against Saint John

We have been retained to file a class action against the City of Saint John on behalf of all of the survivors who were sexually abused by Ken Estabrooks both when he was employed as a police officer and later on when he was employed with City Works.

I have been representing survivors of childhood abuse for more than twenty-five years, and every time I meet another survivor I am always forced to come to grips with the question of how responsible adults could allow this kind of horrible abuse to go on for years.

I would encourage everyone to watch the report on Global News on Saturday, September 28, 2013 at 7 PM on 16x9.

More information

If you have any information pertaining to Ken Estabrooks, or would like more information about the class action, you can contact me confidentially through our website or by calling toll free 1-877-423-2050.

July 11, 2013

Sexual Assaults in the Military: The Armed Forces dirty secret

Can sexual assault or rape ever just be incidental to a job? Is it conceivable that someone can sign up for a job where a high risk of sexual assault would be considered somewhat normal? According to the American Military sexual assault is, essentially, just part of the job.

The astonishing statement is part of a response to a lawsuit filed by American soldiers against the Pentagon alleging sexual assault and harrassment by other members of the Armed Forces.

According to Neil MacDonald at the CBC there is a severe lack of accountability within the American military. Last year almost 3,500 people formally complained of sexual assault in the U.S. military. The Pentagon admits that only 238 of these complaints resulted in convictions. The remaining complaints were either dismissed or resulted in minor administrative punishments.

According to the documentary Invisible War about the American military, a female soldier in combat zones is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire!

Fox guarding the hen house?

What happens when those assigned to protect, investigate, and prevent sexual assaults are the ones committing the offences? Just this week the U.S. Army announced that a sergeant first class who had been involved with an assault prevention program at Fort Hood in Texas, is being investigated for allegations of sexual assault. While the soldier has been suspended from all duties, no charges have been filed.

While not an assault on a member of the military, the recent charges against Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski of the U.S. Air Force also reflects another example of the proverbial fox in the hen house. Krusinski was the chief of the U.S. Air Force’s sexual assault prevention branch when he was charged with sexual battery in May, 2013. According to reports, the officer drunkenly approached a woman in a parking lot and grabbed her breasts and buttocks. Interestingly, Krusinski faces trial on July 18th for his alleged assault, while the officer in the Army involved in an alleged assault involving subordinates still has not faced charges.

No-different in Canada

As a sexual abuse lawyer, I have represented victims of military sexual assault here in Canada. According to an article posted on The Canadian Encyclopedia the Canadian military has a similarly poor record in protecting it's femal memebers from sexual abuse and in holding abusers responsible.

It is interesting the CBC reported on the sexual assault report from the Pentagon, but not about the occurrence of sexual assault in our own military.

Shortly after the results of the American study were published, The National Post reported that the Canadian Forces is surveying it’s members to try to determine the extent of military sexual assault. The survey specifically seeks to shed some light on the hidden crime of male on male sexual assault in the military.

Stigma?

Victims of sexual abuse have long been unfairly stigmatized. Survivors are reluctant to come forward lest it affect their families or careers. It appears that this prejudice and lack of accountability is alive an well in Armed Forces on both sides of the border.

Continue reading "Sexual Assaults in the Military: The Armed Forces dirty secret" »