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Government must stop postponing release of information to victims, lawyer says

Lawyer Lynn Moore speaks to reporters at Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John's Tuesday about what she says are too many delays by the government to provide information about one of her clients, who reportedly suffered abuse while in foster care years ago.
Lawyer Lynn Moore speaks to reporters at Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John's Tuesday about what she says are too many delays by the government to provide information about one of her clients, who reportedly suffered abuse while in foster care years ago. - Rosie Mullaley

The lawyer representing a woman suing the province for abuse she suffered while in foster care decades ago says the government needs to get its priorities straight when spending money.

Lynn Moore says more should be spent on hiring more people to process the huge numbers of access to information requests made to the government by people who have been the subject of child protection proceedings, formerly child welfare.

It's the reason so many of these cases are getting tied up in court and experiencing long delays, she said.

"Government has money for what they deem to be important," Lynn Moore told reporters at Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John's Tuesday.

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"They, in this calendar year, spent $10 million on security for Muskrat Falls, but they can't afford a couple of more social workers to vet documents?

"It looks like they do not deem people who have been in the system as important enough, as deserving to get their documents in a timely fashion."

Moore said there are 196 access to information requests by victims awaiting responses – some since early 2014.

"In my view, that is scandalous and outrageous that people cannot have access to their records," she said.

Moore made the comments following proceedings in the case of Jane Doe, Moore's client, who reportedly suffered extreme physical, sexual and emotional abuse while in foster care in Labrador and western Newfoundland as a child.

In court Tuesday, Moore filed an application requesting that the government produce the documents she asked for months ago.

"Really, it's a tale of horror what happened to her as a child in, not one, but several foster homes, where she was abused," said Moore, who had issued a news release to media outlets earlier in the day expressing her outrage at the delays and noting her availability to speak about the issue.

"This very traumatic childhood has caused her to come to me to represent her against the government, and having done this work for five years now, I am continually frustrated by the delays at government."

Moore filed the statement of claim in September 2017. She said court rules state once that statement of claim and the defence have been filed, the defendant has 10 days to forward the information. That time has passed and Moore said it's unfair to keep victims waiting.

"Why do they have to wait for this long period of time? It is ridiculous in this day and age," she said, adding that redacted, or blacked out, portions of documents can also pose problems.

She said the delays have a huge impact on victims.

"It's very stressful for people to take on these cases, and a three-month delay getting documents might not seem like much, but when we get to the stage when the case is ready, we are often ready to settle and we make a proposal to government," Moore said. "We often wait a year for the government to respond to us and that's just not good enough.

"Someone could actually be denied a right to compensation because the government decides to sit on documents. It's completely unfair."

In its defence information, signed by government lawyer Donald Anthony, the province denies the allegations, stating, "based on the date of birth of the plaintiff and when she would likely have been in the care of the province, the limitation period for any tortious act or abuse, other than sexual abuse, has expired."

It denies it was negligent and says allegations of abuse have not been proven.

It states that, as the province has not yet had the time to obtain and review any records that might relate to the plaintiff from its files, it reserves the right to make changes to the defence.

Rosie.mullaley@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelyRosie

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