Court gives green light for Crown Ward Class Action against the Province of Ontario

May 29, 2015, 12:54 ET from Koskie Minsky LLP

THUNDER BAY, ON, May 29, 2015 /CNW/ - The Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled yesterday that abused, neglected and re-victimized Crown wards may proceed with their class action against the Province of Ontario, despite government lawyers arguing that they did not owe a duty of care to the tens of thousands of children in their custody.

On May 28, 2015, the Province's motion to strike the plaintiffs' lawsuit was denied by Justice Pierce of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. Further, Justice Pierce granted the plaintiffs' motion for an order that the first part of the test for certification is granted.

The proposed class action includes all children who were Crown wards at any time from January 1, 1966 – the date that the Province of Ontario voluntarily accepted legal responsibility and guardianship of Crown wards. The proposed representative plaintiffs, Holly Papassay, Toni Grann, Robert Mitchell, Dale Gyselinck and Lorraine Evans are former Crown wards of the Province of Ontario. These former Crown wards are seeking justice for the Crown's failure to protect them from the severe physical and sexual abuse they suffered as children while in the Province's care.

Currently, over 500 class members have contacted class counsel. Class counsel encourages former Crown wards to contact them to assist in these claims being advanced. Justice Pierce's ruling now allows the proposed representative plaintiffs to proceed with the next step in their class action, and ultimately one step closer to seeing justice.

"Sadly, my experience is not unique. There were countless children like me who were torn from their homes, only to experience further harm because the Ontario government failed us," said former Crown ward Toni Grann. "I hope that by sharing my story, others will have the courage to come forward so that we can get some closure on this terrible chapter of our lives. Justice must be done."

"I was taken from my home at the age of five, when I could speak Ojibway, French and English. I was promised a better life," said former Crown ward Holly Papassay. "That promise was broken.  Not only did I suffer horrible abuse for which no claims were ever made, but I also lost my ability to speak Ojibway and French. I lost my childhood, I lost my culture and I lost my identity. There are others like me who also deserve to have their story told so that history can't repeat itself."

Jonathan Ptak, co-lead counsel, emphasized, "these victims are among the most vulnerable members of our society. Crown wards were doubly victimized, first at the hands of their abusers, and second, when their rights to make claims weren't protected. We intend to shine a light on their experiences and demand accountability."

"I am honoured to represent the women and men who have suffered greatly as a direct result of government inaction," said Sandy Zaitzeff, co-lead counsel.  "They were child victims, and there is no reason that these tragedies should be kept hidden any longer," says Chris Watkins, co-lead counsel.

Koskie Minsky LLP, based in Toronto, is one of Canada's foremost class action law firms. Its class actions group has been a leader in class actions since 1992 and has prosecuted many of the leading cases in the area.  For example, Koskie Minsky LLP was counsel to the survivors of Huronia Regional Centre, a facility for individuals with developmental disabilities, who recently received court approval of a settlement with the Province of Ontario wherein the Province agreed to pay survivors $35 million and to provide an apology to former residents of Huronia for the harm they sustained while living at this facility.   Koskie Minsky LLP was also counsel in Cloud v. Canada, the first Indian residential schools class action certified in Canada, which resulted in a $4 billion pan-Canadian settlement. The settlement is proceeding and over 90,000 class members have made claims.

Sandy Zaitzeff of Zaitzeff Law PC and Christopher Watkins of Watkins Law PC, based in Thunder Bay, bring extensive courtroom and trial experience in the areas of personal injury, criminal and class action litigation.  They are counsel in several other class actions including against the City of Thunder Bay regarding its alleged failure to properly maintain a water pollution control plant, in national actions involving alleged gender based discrimination in the RCMP and the Alysena Birth Control class action; both cases involve women from across Canada.


SOURCE Koskie Minsky LLP