Tort Tuesday: N.L. court hears horrors of abuse in residential school

An Aboriginal drummer in native clothing beating on a colourful drum in the Walk for Reconciliation in Ottawa.
A drummer takes part in the Walk for Reconciliation in Ottawa May 31, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

The horrors of the way aboriginal children were treated in residential schools are on display in a Newfoundland class action lawsuit.

This week, the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labradour heard how Inuit students were physically and sexually abused in the most agonizing ways.

Toby Obed told the court how students at North West River School were strapped and punished if they spoke Inuktitut. He added children who wet their beds were kept in those beds all day and not allowed to talk to anyone.

Even more shockingly, Obed testified that students were forced to have sex on fieldtrips while others watched. A tearful Obed shared that he was seven years old when he was sexually assaulted by an older student. Obed was taken from his family when he was only four years old and was told his parents had died. He was not allowed to go to their funerals. Obed’s sister forgot how to speak their native language after all the punishment she received.

The class action is seeking compensation and an apology from the school’s operators and government entities whose negligence allowed the abuse to take place. The federal government’s lawyer asked Obed if the government knew what was going on to him at the time. He answered: “No.”

Obed’s lawyers, who are representing all of the students named in the class action, said students are now made to relive these tragedies before the court.

SNC-Lavalin settles corruption case

In less disturbing news, Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin has agreed to pay $1.5 million and accept additional sanctions to settle a corruption case brought forward by the African Development Group.

The corruption charges relate to the engineering and construction company’s operations in two African countries. Apparently, SNC made illegal payments to government officials to land two contracts. One contract was to supervise the construction of a bridge in Mozambique, and the other involved a road upgrade in Uganda.

This is not the first bribery case against SNC. It was barred from bidding on financial projects for 10 years after bribery allegations surfaced in 2013 in Cambodia and Bangladesh.

The troubles do not end here. SNC will be attending court in Canada to respond to a criminal fraud lawsuit, where the company is alleged to have paid more than $47 million to bribe officials in Libya. If convicted, it may lose the ability to bid on Canadian contracts for a long time.

What to do? Clean up your operations.

Hockey legend loses case against police

Former Canadiens legend, Guy Lafleur, has lost his legal battle against Montreal police and prosecutors. He alleged they went too far when they arrested him in 2008 for perjury. The Quebec Superior Court dismissed his case, ruling the allegations were based on “speculations, impressions, conjectures and prejudices.”

It all started when Lafleur testified in his son, Mark’s, criminal trial. When questioned on the stand, Lafleur did not mention Mark had spent a couple of weekends at a hotel with his girlfriend in violation of his bail conditions. Later, Lafleur was put on the stand again and had to clarify this. A warrant was issued for Lafleur’s arrest right after on charges of perjury. He was convicted, but it was eventually tossed on appeal.

Perjury is the crime of lying on the stand.

The Superior Court said yes he may have been acquitted of perjury, but the Crown and police did not act in bad faith. The court also dismissed allegations of conspiracy because Lafleur’s pocket or his reputation weren’t much affected as a result of the arrest.

Find a Lawyer