Huronia $2-billion class action plaintiffs are dying while waiting for justice

Attorney General continues to delay proceedings

TORONTO, May 30, 2013 /CNW/ - Victims of institutional abuse in Ontario are dying before seeing the justice they deserve, and it is time for the Wynne government to stop dragging its feet. Plaintiffs in a $2-billion dollar class action lawsuit against the province of Ontario have been subjected to extraordinary government delays that their attorney Kirk Baert of Koskie Minsky LLP says he has never seen in 20 years of practice.

Earlier this month, the province refused to agree to terms of mediation, and has continually refused to admit that the government owed a duty of care whatsoever to the children who were placed in its care - disgracefully re-victimizing the victims of Huronia Regional Centre (HRC). Crown attorneys have even tried to pass the buck to the federal government, saying that the conditions at HRC were the result of a lack of funding from "higher levels of government". A trial date is set for September 30 in Toronto and is expected to last 10 weeks. However, the Wynne government's delay tactics continue.

The class action arises from alleged abuses suffered by former residents of HRC, a government institution in Orillia, Ontario that was closed in 2009 after 133 years of so-called "treatment" for people with intellectual disabilities. Patricia Seth went to live at HRC when she was just six years old and was not discharged from the institution until 17 years later. Ms. Seth said:  "Living [at HRC] was like being in jail. We had no freedom. We had no hope." Marie Slark, who resided at HRC from the age of seven until 16 said: "When I lived at [HRC] I never had any control of my life. I hated it there."

Ms. Slark, Ms. Seth and many others are proceeding with a class action lawsuit against the Ontario government to seek justice and compensation for the abuse and maltreatment they endured while residing at HRC. HRC opened in 1876, housing people who were deemed to have cognitive and other disabilities. At its peak, more that 2,500 people lived at HRC and by the mid-1970s, the Ontario government operated 16 such facilities. The McGuinty government closed the last of these institutions on March 31, 2009.

Since the Ontario Superior Court of Justice certified their lawsuit as a class action on July 30, 2010, government lawyers have delayed by missing deadlines, making no offers to settle and failing to meaningfully participate in mediation before a judge. The government is now insisting that each plaintiff in the class be assessed one by one, requiring plaintiffs to prove their damages individually. Not only is a class action supposed to avoid this scenario, but many of the survivors have major communicative disabilities, making the process much more difficult.

These tactics have been emotionally devastating for the plaintiffs, many of whom are now elderly and find it painful to relive the memories of their years at Huronia. People with intellectual disabilities often don't have the same life expectancy as the general population. "Many of us will pass away before we see justice," said Ms. Slark. "But we won't give up. What they did to us was wrong."

Koskie Minsky LLP is representing the former HRC residents involved in the $2-billion class action lawsuit against the province of Ontario.

The class action alleges residents of the HRC suffered inhumane treatment from 1945 until its closure in 2009 and that the province of Ontario failed to properly care for, and protect, those under its care.

SOURCE: Koskie Minsky LLP

For further information:

Celeste Poltak 
Koskie Minsky LLP
cpoltak@kmlaw.ca
(416) 595-2701


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