TORONTO, Nov. 13, 2013 /CNW/ - An historic settlement between victims of the Huronia Regional Centre and the Province of Ontario is potentially at risk - because Ontario is denying people access to critical information, the victims' lawyers say.
"The settlement is only a few weeks old, but already the province - which ran Huronia - is breaking some of its terms," said Koskie Minsky lawyer Kirk Baert, lead counsel for the victims. "The settlement in September clearly required the province to give victims access to records about their cases. That's what Ontario agreed to. But now we are hearing from our clients that isn't happening."
In September, after many years of delay, Ontario finally agreed to settle the Huronia Regional Centre class action lawsuit for $35 million. Among the terms of settlement was a requirement that Ontario give the public access to 65,000 documents pertaining to Huronia, and that victims or their families would be given prompt access to files.
"Victims are getting the run-around by bureaucrats, or they are being denied access entirely," added Baert. "What they went through at Huronia is bad enough. For Ontario's government to now break its word about access makes a bad situation even worse."
The tentative settlement agreement clearly explains how documents are to be maintained, and how they can be accessed. The documents are to be deposited with Archives Ontario and are subject to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act ("FIPPA"). However, survivors of Huronia who are trying to access their own records are being given the bureaucratic run-around and are waiting several weeks simply for a reply.
Worse still, Archives Ontario staff are telling survivors that their files cannot be found and "may" be located at the Ministry of Children and Social Services. "It is outrageous that this government can't even figure out where these records are," said Baert. "Forcing Huronia victims to go through this Kafkaesque process is shameful."
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.
Koskie Minsky LLP is representing the former HRC residents involved in a class action lawsuit against the province of Ontario, as well as two other class action lawsuits currently underway: Southwestern Regional Centre and Rideau Regional Centre. These class actions are virtually identical to the one brought against the government by the Huronia survivors.
SOURCE: Koskie Minsky LLP
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