أخبار عاجلة

Government to change statute of limitations on child abuse after petitions and protests

Government to change statute of limitations on child abuse after petitions and protests
Government to change statute of limitations on child abuse after petitions and protests

اخبار العرب-كندا 24: الثلاثاء 23 أبريل 2024 04:02 مساءً

Justice Minister John Hogan said he will introduce a bill in the House of Assembly on Wednesday to amend the province's Limitations Act — a law that has prevented some people from suing the government for abuse they suffered as children.

The move comes amid mounting pressure from across the floor. A group of MHAs have spent weeks reading in the same petition more than 30 times, calling on Hogan to update the legislation and bring it in line with the majority of other provinces in Canada.

"We've been doing an analysis of this for some time, and I don't want to upend anything that's going to happen in the not-too-distant future. But it is safe to say that we will be changing the statute," Premier Andrew Furey told reporters after question period on Tuesday.

As it stands, the law puts time limits on survivors of non-sexual abuse to come forward with claims.

One of those survivors is Jack Whalen, a former resident of the Whitbourne Boys' Home who estimates he spent more than 700 days in solitary confinement as a child.

Whalen has been protesting since last summer, building a replica of his solitary cell and driving it all the way to the national human rights monument in Ottawa.

LISTEN | CBC reporter Ryan Cooke's documentary on Jack Whalen's case: 

While others have successfully sued the government over sexual abuse at the Whitbourne Boys' Home, Whalen was unable to sue because he suffered other forms of abuse, which come with time limits.

Whalen would have had until his 21st birthday to come forward with a claim, or his 29th birthday if the abuse had been discovered later in life. He said he was not in a position to confront his treatment until much later in life.

He has a civil trial scheduled for October, where he planned to challenge the province's Limitations Act in hopes of having it deemed unconstitutional.

Whalen wrote messages on the inside of the cell, and made 730 checkmarks on the far wall.

Whalen wrote messages on the inside of the cell, and made 730 checkmarks on the far wall.

Whalen wrote messages on the inside of the cell, and made 730 checkmarks on the far wall. (Christian Patry/CBC)

Furey told reporters he had spoken to Whalen and let him know his voice was heard. He didn't say how the statute will change, saying that conversation belongs in the House of Assembly.

"I respect his protest, I respect his seat in the House, I respect his position," Furey said of Whalen. "But that work had been ongoing, and I committed to continuing to advance that work."

Helen Conway-Ottenheimer, the PC MHA for Harbour Main and the Opposition justice critic, said they welcome changes to the statute and are eager to begin moving on it in the House.

"We have been lobbying for this for some time now, right from when we wrote the minister of justice," Conway-Ottenheimer said.

In another case currently before the courts, a man who was under the supervision of child protective services has been denied compensation over horrendous physical abuse suffered at home. The government was able to settle with his sister, however, because she was sexually abused in the same household.

When asked if changes to the statute could lead to more people coming forward seeking compensation, Furey told reporters to stay tuned for a future announcement.

The law was amended following the Hughes Inquiry in the early 1990s, allowing survivors of sexual abuse at Mount Cashel to sue their government and their abusers. Most provinces in Canada took it a step further, and removed the statutes of limitation on other forms of abuse as well. New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador did not.

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