Ontario could face class-action suit over alleged failure to protect Crown wards
TORONTO -- Two former wards of the Crown allege the Ontario government deprived them of their right to seek compensation for the abuse they suffered as children.
Holly Papassay and Toni Grann, who launched a proposed $110-million class-action lawsuit earlier this year, say the province failed to protect the rights of children under its care.
Speaking to reporters Monday, both women said they were abused in the homes where they were placed.
But the statute of limitations on a civil claim has expired and they have missed their chance to receive damages for what they went through, their lawyers said.
"It was the province who had the authority and the power -- and, we say, the responsibility -- to make those claims on those children's behalf," said lawyer Jonathan Ptak.
"It was the province that was their guardian."
The women, who now live in Thunder Bay, say the province failed to inform them of their right to seek compensation through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board or file claims on their behalf, and failed to preserve evidence that would support such claims.
The board offers financial compensation to anyone physically or psychologically injured in a violent crime, including sexual or domestic assault, provided the claim is filed within two years of the offence.
If a claimant is under the age of 18, a legal guardian must make the application, the board says.
Papassay appeared distraught Monday as she described being molested by a teen boy in her first foster home.
The situation didn't improve much in her second foster home, where an older boy would corner her in the garage and expose himself, she said, taking deep breaths.
When she told her caseworker, she was accused of lying, Papassay said.
"No one was ever punished for what happened to me but me," she said.
Grann was beaten by her mother's partner at age three and taken by children's aid, which placed her in foster care, she said.
She adopted at age 5 by a couple in Hamilton and spent the next five years being sexually abused by her adoptive father, she said.
He was eventually tried and convicted after Grann had been adopted by another family, she said.
"This happens every day," she said in urging others with similar experiences to come forward.
Names will be kept confidential, the lawyers said.
The proposed class includes all wards of the Crown since 1966, the year the province accepted legal responsibility and guardianship of them.
The lawsuit has not yet been certified by the court.