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'We've settled most of the issues for approximately 20 cases.'

Horne lawsuit could be resolved out of court

By CHRIS WINDEYER

A lawyer for nearly 70 Nunavummiut who were allegedly molested by former teacher Ed Horne says its possible a civil suit against the Governments of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories could be settled out of court.

This past Tuesday, both sides in the civil case announced that a trial scheduled to begin in March will be postponed.

For months, the two sides have been involved in a judicial mediation process to settle test cases and use the results to determine if other alleged victims with similar circumstances ought to receive similar compensation.

Last year, Justice Beverly Browne ruled that the best way for the Nunavut court to manage the lawsuit is for lawyers to pick 10 sample claimants and then argue those cases in a single trial.

The process has gone so well, there's now optimism that the whole thing could be settled out of court, said Geoffrey Budden, lawyer for 69 plaintiffs in the case.

"If the mediation continues to be successful, that's where we'll end," he said.

"We've settled most of the issues for approximately 20 cases."

The two sides are to meet again in April, and Budden said the whole matter could be wrapped by the summer if the mediation process continues as well as it has.

If not, the process could drag on "much later than that."

The current lawsuit, launched in 2004, alleges the Government of the NWT didn't do enough to protect the alleged victims from Horne, who taught throughout the eastern Arctic from 1971 to 1987. The GN is included in the suit because it was part of the NWT at the time.

The plaintiffs are seeking damages similar to a $21.5 million settlement won by 82 of Horne's victims in 2002 through an alternative dispute resolution process.

Horne was convicted in 2000 on 20 sex-related charges involving former students and pleaded guilty to eight charges in 1987.

In March 2008, Horne was found not guilty on 10 more charges. A judge ruled the Crown didn't have enough evidence to prove the complaints, brought by four men who alleged Horne molested them at schools in Cape Dorset, Iqaluit, Kimmirut and Sanikiluaq.

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