Lawsuit anyone?


You’d think that after spending more than $443,000 in the first of what’s likely to be a long list of compensation payments to more than 40 victims of former teacher Ed Horne’s sexual abuse, the government of Nunavut would now understand the term “liability.”

As many readers will recall, the Nunavut legislative assembly recently voted to spend the money as Nunavut’s share of a $1-million preliminary payment made by Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.

That’s the sort of price that public institutions pay when they fail to exercise due diligence toward those placed in their care.

But recent events show that Nunavut’s happy-go-lucky territorial government is still creating unnecessary liabilities for itself.

For example, Denny Kudloo, a 21-year-old man from Pond Inlet with an undisclosed mental illness and a history of sexual deviancy that began at puberty, was allowed to stay at the Tammaattivik patient home in Iqaluit last October. Staff members at the home didn’t know his history. After he walked into a private room and sexually assaulted a patient, the home’s management was not “clearly informed” about what he’d done.

So in December, Kudloo was allowed back into Tammaattivik — sent there by Nunavut’s health department. On this second stay, he seemed to have as much fun as he did on his first. He walked into another unlocked room and sexually assaulted another hospital patient.

It gets worse. When Kudloo appeared in court this week, no one offered any evidence to suggest that the man is getting any competent, professional help for his mental illness. There was no evidence put before the court to suggest that the man will get help from a qualified psychiatrist or psychologist, or will enter any kind of treatment program for sex offenders. And no one has provided clear answers to questions about where the man will stay if he ever needs medical care in Iqaluit again.

In this case, Kudloo appears to be as much of a victim of territorial government incompetence as his victims.

Lawsuit anyone?

Unfortunately, few Nunavummiut have access to civil law, or understand how to use the courts to claim their rights or seek redress for damages inflicted by institutional incompetence. In Nunavut, civil law is, for the most part, available only to the affluent and the powerful.

But given the mounting evidence of institution failure in justice, health, education and social services showing up in the criminal side of the court system, we may not have to wait long for that to change.

For example, earlier this month it was revealed that a 17-year-old convicted of five sex charges related to children and youths has received no court-ordered psychiatric assessment.

Justice Robert Kilpatrick ordered the assessment on June 8, 2001, as part of a sentencing decision that saw the boy ordered to serve 14 months in custody, followed by a 22-month period of probation. As of March 13, 2002, the GN had yet to do that assessment. Described in court as posing a high risk for sexual violence, the boy is unlikely to get any help until after a psychiatrist assesses his problem.

Defence lawyer Michael Chandler even asked Justice Kilpatrick to find the GN in contempt of court, but Kilpatrick decided to give the GN more time.

So if this boy were to be released before an assessment is done, and then re-offend, could his victims successfully sue the GN? Or could the boy sue the GN for failing to perform a duty of care?

Yet another example is the dental therapist in Pond Inlet who in February was charged with two counts of sexual exploitation and two counts of sexual assault involving minors. A health department employee who works inside a school in Pond Inlet, the man had easy access to children.

So if this man were to be convicted, could his victims sue the GN for failing to perform a duty of care?

Understaffing and high staff turnovers may account for some of these embarrassing problems. Bad policies, incompetence, and complacent attitudes may account for others.

But those who work in departments responsible for performing duties of care to the public and to a wide variety of vulnerable clients should be reminded that when they screw up, the consequences of those failures can be expensive and long-lasting.


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