First Nations man revives sex assault lawsuit against northern Manitoba child care agency

WARNING: The following story contains details of sexual and physical assault that could be disturbing:

A man is suing a care agency and its staff for the second time in four years claiming they failed to keep him safe from physical and sexual abuse decades ago while in care on a remote Manitoba First Nation.

A change in the law governing the statute of limitations made it possible, the man’s lawyer suggests.

The alleged assaults happened between 28 and 40 years ago, when the complainant was removed from his home at birth and placed into the care of Awasis Agency of Northern Manitoba, court filings show.

CBC News is not naming the victim, defendants or the community due the nature of the sexual assault allegations. None of the allegations have been proven in court.

According to the lawsuit filed in Court of King’s Bench on Jan. 20, the man was placed in an Awasis home in 1980 in his northern Manitoba community, where he lived until he was 18.

He alleges the woman in charge of his care physically assaulted him repeatedly and forced him to do manual labour.

He accuses the woman’s son, who was about 10 years older than him, of sexual assault.

The alleged abuses happened from the time he was a young boy to his mid-teens and included forced acts of fellatio, masturbation, attempted anal sex and threatening to beat him unless he performed anal sex on another child in the home, court documents state.

The man alleges on two occasions in his youth he brought complaints forward:

  • Once to the local Awasis supervisor, who happened to be the adult sister, now deceased, of the male he accuses of sexual assault and the daughter of the woman looking after him accused of the physical assaults. The supervisor didn’t investigate or remove him from the home, court filings state.
  • In the other case, the man says he told an Awasis worker of the physical abuse and labour. She removed him from the home and raised concerns with managers but was then fired, and he was returned to the home. There was no follow up, “which would have reasonably lead to his removal therefore, and which failure of monitoring and supervision materially contributed to his risk of further assaults,” court documents state. 

The man argues no action was taken because of favouritism and the familial relationship between his abusers and the Awasis supervisor.

His lawyer, Norman Rosenbaum, argues Awasis is guilty of negligence and breach of fiduciary duty.

His client suffers from “severe and devastating injury, loss, pain, suffering and damage” in the form of hearing loss, psychological trauma, nightmares, sleep disorders, suicidal ideation and attempts, panic attacks, loss of income and the ability to be employed, the lawsuit states.

Extension request previously denied

The courts dismissed a similar lawsuit by the man four years ago on the grounds that some complaints exceeded the statute of limitations under the Limitation of Action Act.

There was no statute of limitations on certain abuse allegations at the time, including sexual assault. But in the previous lawsuit filed in 2017, Rosenbaum targeted not just the alleged abusers but the Manitoba government, director of Child and Family Services and Awasis. He said they were “vicariously liable” for negligence and breaching fiduciary duty, and so were on the hook for damages. 

Previously, the statute of limitations for breach of fiduciary duty and negligence was six years and two years, respectively, according to court documents. 

Rosenbaum sought an extension on both fronts, but Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Kenneth Champagne denied the request in 2019. 

Champagne said the man’s case didn’t provide ample evidence to warrant an extension or offer a compelling explanation for why he waited to file a lawsuit.

The “most significant” evidence cited in that case, according to Champagne, was a meeting the man and his girlfriend claimed to have had with the head of Awasis in 2005 or 2006, when he was about 25 years old. 

The pair told Awasis of the alleged physical and sexual abuse. They claimed Awasis agreed to buy furniture for the man and his kids and pay him $8,000, on the condition he sign an agreement to “leave Awasis alone,” according to court documents from 2019. He was also supposed to leave the chief of the community alone, as per the agreement.

The man never signed. He called Legal Aid for help instead, but Legal Aid told him they don’t handle claims of monetary compensation, court documents suggest. When Awasis caught wind of that conversation, they called him back and told him the deal was off, the documents say. Another lawyer he connected with also said he didn’t handle compensation matters.

After that, the man explained that sharing the allegations took an emotional toll. He shut down, not knowing where to turn. 

“In order to cope he put things out of his mind,” Justice Champagne wrote in 2019.

The man claimed he only felt strong enough to come forward in September 2017 to get a lawyer and discuss the abuse allegations again.

By approaching the agency in that meeting in 2005-06, which turned into a settlement discussion about assaults, the man showed he understood the offer was significant enough to get a lawyer and pursue a legal case, according to Champagne. 

Champagne denied the request for an exception to the statute of limitations in part for that reason: It took the man more than a decade after that settlement discussion to file a lawsuit, which fell outside of the window of time granted through the previous legislation.

In 2020, the Court of Appeals upheld Champagne’s decision.

New legislative opening?

The latest lawsuit comes after the province replaced the Limitation of Action Act with the New Limitations Act last September. 

The new legislation suggests cases involving sexual assault that had been denied previously “for the sole reason that a limitation period that had previously applied had expired” can now be revived.

The new lawsuit mentions this as motivation for reviving the complaints.

The 2023 lawsuit no longer names the province or the director of Child and Family Services as liable for damages.

It focuses on Awasis and the male who allegedly sexually abused the plaintiff. It also names that man’s sister, the then-supervisor of Awasis in the First Nation community, in part to compel her to reveal her brother’s location, court documents show.

The lawsuit speculates that her brother might be in Stony Mountain Institution serving time for sexual offences. The Corrections Services of Canada confirmed to CBC News there is no one by his name in any federal prison. 

Lawyer Kris Saxberg confirmed Awasis has again retained his firm. Awasis denies any legal liability and plans to file a statement of defence, he said in an email.

View original article here Source