Court Gives Green Light and Certifies Crown Ward Class Action Against the Province of Ontario

TORONTO, March 31, 2017 /CNW/ - The law firms Koskie Minsky LLP and Watkins Law Professional Corporation announce that the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled yesterday that abused, neglected and victimized Crown wards may proceed with their class action against the Province of Ontario.

In this case, the plaintiffs were removed from their families and made Crown wards when they were children. They were apprehended by the Province of Ontario because they suffered criminal assaults, neglect or abuse at the hands of their family members or others. Many Crown wards suffered further abuse while in the care of the Crown.

The plaintiffs allege that there was a Province-wide failure to protect and advance the children's claims for compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board or in the civil courts. By failing to do so, the plaintiffs were deprived of compensation that could have dramatically changed their lives for the better.

On March 30, 2017, the Honourable Madam Justice H.M. Pierce released reasons certifying the case as a class action, clearing the way for this case to go to trial. Justice Pierce concluded that a class action would foster access to justice, promote judicial economy and lead to behavior modification on the part of the Province. Justice Pierce certified the class action in part because of the vulnerability of the Crown ward class.

Her decision states, "The class of former Crown wards is, by its nature, a vulnerable group. Many suffered abuse or neglect as children to the extent that they were removed permanently from their families. Some suffered abuse as foster children. At the tender age of 18, they were deemed independent. Against this life experience, it would not be surprising that they would encounter barriers in access to justice if required to litigate their claims individually."

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. There may be more than 90,000 class members who will be affected by this case.

The representative plaintiffs are Toni Grann, Robert Mitchell, Dale Gyselinck and Lorraine Evans. Toni, Robert, Dale and Lorraine are former Crown wards of the Province of Ontario, seeking justice for the rest of the class.

"I'm just happy we can get this case moving. The Province has fought us on every step so far," said Toni Grann upon learning about his victory. "We have waited long enough for justice. Now we can go to trial."

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.

"Ontario has wrongly taken the position from day one that they do not even owe Crown wards any duties at all and has tried to shift blame to Children's Aid Societies," said Jonathan Ptak, co-lead counsel in this case and a partner at Koskie Minsky LLP. "What is outrageous is that on the one hand, the Child and Family Services Act specifically mandates that the Province of Ontario is the parent for each Crown ward. On the other hand, the Province of Ontario administers the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. It's intimately familiar with its policies, procedures, and what is required to prove a claim. What happened here? Why did Ontario fail to consider claims to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board on behalf of children in its care? Now that the class action is certified, we can finally get the court to answer these questions and ensure the Crown fulfils its duties as a parent and take appropriate steps to protect Crown wards in its care."

Ontario Crown wards and former Ontario Crown wards are encouraged to visit www.kmlaw.ca/ocwclassaction, email ocwclassaction@kmlaw.ca or call 1 (866) 778-7985 or www.watkinslawforthepeople.com or call (807) 345-4455 to provide information about their wardship to support the case and to be in a position to make a claim, if the case is successful.

Jonathan Ptak of Koskie Minsky LLP, and Chris Watkins of Watkins Law Professional Corporation are lead counsel in this proposed class action. The claim was issued in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

Koskie Minsky LLP, based in Toronto, is one of Canada's foremost class action, pension, labour, employment and litigation 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 in Cloud v. Canada, the first Indian Residential Schools class action certified in Canada which was settled for $5 billion. Koskie Minsky LLP was also counsel in Dolmage v. Ontario and three other related cases against the province of Ontario on behalf of thousands of people with disabilities which were settled for more than $107 million.

Christopher Watkins of Watkins Law PC, based in Thunder Bay, brings extensive courtroom and trial experience in the areas of personal injury, criminal and class action litigation. 

SOURCE Koskie Minsky LLP

For further information: Media contacts: Jonathan Ptak and Garth Myers, Koskie Minsky LLP, (416) 595-2149 and (416) 595-2102, jptak@kmlaw.ca and gmyers@kmlaw.ca

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