Nova Scotia is where I was born and grew up before I turned my ship against the prevailing winds and sailed west. Much of my family and a healthy chunk of my heart still resides there. Nevertheless, I have probably criticized Nova Scotia's justice system more than any other single province, state or country, with the exception of India.
So, while this is a 'good news' story, the Nova Scotia justice system managed to come out of it smelling considerably less than pleasant.
On the eve of finally receiving the justice they’ve sought for almost 20 years, Bob Martin and Dale Sutherland did not celebrate. Instead, the two men, who were abused as boys by Ernest Fenwick MacIntosh, spent the night meeting another victim.
There have been a lot of meetings to reach this point.
On Friday Justice Minister Lena Diab introduced an amendment to the Limitation of Actions Act, which gives existing victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence the right to sue their abuser in civil court. When the bill was introduced last fall, it was not retroactive, a shortcoming deemed yet another slap in the face by victims.
“How dare someone tell me that I can’t sue the person that raped me,” said Sutherland. “Child sexual abuse in Nova Scotia is rampant and Nova Scotia should wake up.”
With the unanimous consent of the House, the amendment was passed into law on Friday in a single sitting.
Unanimous consent - makes one wonder why it wasn't included in the original bill in the first place.
Martin and Sutherland said the change feels good, but it still hurts that it’s taken so long. Martin said he believes it was only after intense public pressure by abuse victims, including a full-page ad in this newspaper, and the efforts of Tory MLA Allan MacMaster that the government decided to act.
“If we didn’t have the guts and balls to be out in the media and talk about this all the time . . . where would we be today,” said Martin. It’s only been recently that government members have even been willing to talk to them, he said.
“They’re playing politics because we made them look bad.”
The men said more of MacIntosh’s victims are already coming forward and they fully expect to sue the former Port Hawkesbury businessman. In 2010, MacIntosh was convicted on multiple counts of abuse dating back to the 1970s, but the conviction was overturned because of how long it took to go to court.
In December he was charged in Nepal for abusing a boy there and this month was sentenced to seven years in jail in that country. The swift justice in that country is something officials in Canada should take note of, said MacMaster.
How pathetic is that - Nova Scotia's justice system appears to lag well behind that of Nepal?
MacMaster introduced an amendment last fall to make the legislation retroactive but it was defeated by the government and Diab told him his proposal was not possible. On Friday the minister said that was a mistake and “a failing of our department” and she apologized to Martin and Sutherland.
Nova Scotia is still reactive rather than proactive in respect to child sex abuse. And their reaction seems to invariably be underwhelming. They are still reacting only when they are forced to - no change from the Rehtaeh Parsons pathetic excuse for justice.
As Mr Sutherland said, Nova Scotia needs to wake up. They need to get ahead of the ball instead of constantly chasing it. There are so many things that can be done to improve the protection of potential victims, to improve the treatment of current and historical victims, and to insure they get the help they need to recover.
|Erin Merryn - author and driver|
of Erin's Law
Just Google 'child sex abuse' and see what many of the Councils in Britain are doing. Or, read my blog - there are myriad programs and legislation in Britain, India, and the US to educate children on how to recognize when they are being abused and how to articulate that to a parent or teacher. One of the best is Erin's Law which has been adopted in about 2 dozen states and set to be legislated in many more.
You have a chance to advance an agenda that would put Nova Scotia at the vanguard of child protection in Canada.
You could even hire a sociology professor to investigate the level of and types of child sex abuse going on in NS. To my knowledge, no province in Canada has done any formal studies recently into CSA and into the levels of child sex trafficking of both local and foreign youths.
The pervasiveness of child sex trafficking in Britain, in my mind, makes it irresponsible for governments in Canada and the US not to find out how much is occurring at home.
“We’re sorry as a province. I do hope that this can be a beginning for you today.”
Diab said she’s identified the source of the mistake but would not elaborate on what went wrong or what, if anything, happened to the person who made the mistake.
It was at that point Sutherland started speaking directly to Diab. He criticized the way the government has handled the matter through the years and said he was offended when Premier Stephen McNeil didn’t stop to speak to him and Martin on Thursday when they were at Province House.
“I’m not convinced that you guys know what you’re doing.”
MacMaster said he has mixed feelings about the amendment. While he’s happy the victims are finally getting the justice they deserve, MacMaster said he’s disappointed it took so long and that his pleas for change in the fall weren’t given more consideration.
“I find it hard to believe that human beings just can’t listen sometimes,” he said. “Maybe it’s a problem with the legislature when people can’t listen to what is being said because it’s very obvious to me what these people went through deserves to be listened to.”
Jackie Stevens, executive director of the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre, said Friday’s change is a major step for abuse victims seeking justice and recognition.
“It’s not about the money,” she said. “People aren’t trying to get rich off sexual abuse. They want acknowledgement, they want accountability, they want someone to be held responsible for what has happened to them and this is another option for that.”