Claimant lawyer wants to 'question; Joe Handley, other ex-education officials

Horne lawsuit may probe official cover-ups


When lawyer Geoffrey Budden filed a lawsuit four years ago on behalf of a second group of Nunavummiut claiming damages for sexual abuse committed by ex-teacher Edward Horne, the governments of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut replied with a hardball defence.

Now it's Budden's turn to play hardball.

In a nine-page notice of motion, filed Jan. 11 at the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit, Budden and his legal team make allegations pointing to a possible cover-up of incidents involving teachers caught in acts of sexual misconduct with students between 1971 and 1985.

"There is evidence that there existed in or about the years 1971-1985 policies or procedures directing the deliberate destruction of documentation with respect to teacher employees of the defendants who had been caught in acts of sexual misconduct with students," one paragraph states.

The motion, to be heard Feb. 5 at 10 a.m. before Justice Beverly Browne in Iqaluit, also alleges policies and procedures that allowed such teachers "to receive a warning or resign their positions."

To support this and other parts of his legal position, Budden wants the court to let him question Joe Handley, the former premier of the Northwest Territories, in a discovery hearing.

"The Honourable Joseph Handley has direct, first-hand knowledge of the critical issues in this action," the motion states.

The GNWT hired Handley as deputy minister of education in mid-1985, which means he was in charge of the department when police first laid criminal charges against Horne in early October 1985.

The standard version of events is that until that time, GNWT officials did not know that Horne, who worked for them as a teacher, principal, adult educator and education consultant, had been molesting Inuit boys for more than 10 years.

The motion goes on to allege that Mark Cleveland, until recently the GNWT's deputy minister of education, "continues to refuse to answer certain relevant questions."

Budden will also ask that Browne order the two territorial governments to stop alleging that claimants consented to sexual contact with Ed Horne.

The motion says that assertion is "frivolous, vexatious, scandalous" and "does not have the air of reality."

Finally, Budden wants the trial divided into two parts, so that territorial governments would start paying for healing programs as soon as possible.

"We would like to have had a healing process in place three years ago," Budden said in an interview.

In February of 2004, Budden and his team filed a statement of claim against the two territorial governments on behalf of 69 people from Cape Dorset, Grise Fiord, Kimmirut and Iqaluit who request compensation for Ed Horne's sexual abuse.

Budden and his team hoped the two governments would respond as they did in 2001, when the first group of Horne claimants filed a lawsuit.

The two governments then used an alternative dispute resolution process to reach a quick out-of-court deal by October of 2002. Under it, the first group of claimants split a $21.5 million settlement.

But the second time around, territorial government lawyers responded differently: with a hard-line defense that denies most of the claimants' allegations and even suggests they consented to sex with Ed Horne.

The second case is now inching closer to trial, but before it starts, the claimant's lawyers want the Nunavut court to deal with their lengthy pre-trial motion.

In addition to Joe Handley, Budden and his team also want the court to let them question a long list of former territorial bureaucrats, including: Allan Clovis, Gerald Mulders, Michael Rokeby, Bert Rose, Warren Rongve, William Buell, C. Donald King, David Moore, Gerald Keelan, Norman Macpherson, Val Haas, Eric Colbourne and Brian Menton.

All or most of those people were involved either in education, social services or the teachers' union in the 1970s and 1980s.

As for the teachers' union, Budden suggests the Northwest Territories Teacher's Association, for at least part of the period between 1971 and 1986, knew of teachers alleged to have been sexually involved with students.

In his motion, he say the GNWT, "appeared to have a de facto policy of consultation with the Northwest Territories Teachers's Association when a teacher was alleged to have committed acts of sexual misconduct with students."

To that end, Budden wants the court to compel the NWTTA and the Nunavut Teacher's Association to "produce certain relevant documents."

The motion states that Ed Horne "occupied an executive and/or administrative role" with the NWTTA for part of the time between 1971 and 1986. The motion does not draw any conclusions about what that may mean.

But it does point out that the association was responsible for regulating the ethical standards of teachers and for disciplining teachers who were in breach of those standards, including Horne.

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