Jun 5/98: Indians win Alberni school case


Federal government, United Church found partners in sex abuse

The Province
Friday, June 5, 1988
Suzanne Fournier - Staff Reporter

[S.I.S.I.S. note: The following mainstream news article may contain biased or distorted information and may be missing pertinent facts and/or context. It is provided for reference only.]

Survivors of Indian residential-school abuse have won a major court victory that could open the floodgates for more litigation by victims all across Canada.

Despite bids by the federal government and the United Church to deny in court any responsibility for the Alberni Indian residential school, the B.C. Supreme Court yesterday found the school was a "joint venture" so both should pay.

"This is a giant step forward for us and will give us strength to continue with the court case until we win full compensation," said Randy Fred, spokesman for the natives.

Said Vancouver lawyer Peter Grant, who acted for most of the 30 people who launched a civil lawsuit against Ottawa and the church, "It's a major victory for my clients who have suffered a very great deal and should be entitled to move ahead with their healing. Despite the fact that the church and the federal government have done nothing but deny, deny, deny, the court, in fact, adopted our argument that the school was a joint venture. It appears they are 50-50 responsible for the suffering and sexual abuse of my clients."

Justice Donald Brenner decided only on the matter of "vicarious liability" in this stage of the trial, that is, whether the church or Ottawa were responsible for sexual abuse of Indian children by a school supervisor, and who should pay.

Almost all of the plaintiffs were sexually abused and beaten by Arthur Henry Plint, who worked as a dorm supervisor at the school between1948 and 1968.

Plint, 80, pleaded guilty to dozens of sexual assaults of Indian boys in two trials in 1995 and 1997 and was sentenced to 11 years in jail by a judge who called him a "sexual terrorist."

Marlon Watts, 43, a Vancouver court worker who hailed yesterday's victory, said he was only six and his brother Darrell four when Plint began to assault them sexually at night.

Two older brothers also were raped by Plint but none of the brothers knew of the others' abuse for more than 30 years.

"I heard how my brothers were sexually assaulted for the first time in that courtroom in February, and so did our mother," said Watts.


There were 18 Indian residential schools in B.C. and more than 80 across Canada, run by churches under contract to the federal government from the early 1800s until the mid-1980s.

They were to "kill the Indian in the child" to assimilate Indians and eradicate their culture.

Vancouver lawyer Peter Grant, representing clients in lawsuits involving residential schools at Lytton, Alert Bay, Lower Post, Williams Lake and Edmonton says "literally thousands" more victims all across Canada are waiting to sue.

"How could these schools have been such a haven for pedophiles if they hadn't been set up by Ottawa expressly to destroy aboriginal culture by getting at the children?" Grant asks.

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