They were also working closely with the RCMP and Canadian authorities during the Gustafsen Lake affair. Bryan Williams was elevated to the position of BC Supreme Court Chief Justice shortly after representing the BC Attorney General (BCAG) against the jurisdictional challenge of the Gustafsen Lake Defenders in the Supreme Court of Canada on September 12, 1995. Lawyer for the complainants Don Sorochan is also closely connected to the BCAG, who has employed him as "special prosecutor" for sensitive political matters.
The reference to the Nisga'a deal, the result of a process designed by the colonial governments to strip native nations of their legal and land rights, is also telling.]
All sides are cheering a precedent-setting agreement between the Catholic church, the federal government and 10 native Indian men who were sexually assaulted as students at a B.C. residential school.
The out-of-court settlement, which each party is calling an "historical breakthrough," marks the first time in Canada the federal government, a major religious denomination and native Indians have found a way to resolve one of the hundreds of civil lawsuits that have been launched over the country's native residential-school system.
"This is all good," said Father Vincent LaPlante, spokesman for the Oblate brothers who ran St. Joseph's residential school near Williams Lake, where dozens of young native boys were abused by church officials in the 1950s and '60s.
The settlement -- which was reached just before a court case was to start in Vancouver this week -- includes an undisclosed financial payout to the native men of Alkali Lake and Canim Lake, and apologies from the Catholic church, Oblate Brothers and federal government. As well, all the parties have agreed to take part in a healing circle, which will be held at the same time as the official blessing of Alkali Lake's newly renovated Catholic church.
"We're all happy about it,' Laplante said. "We know the past can't be changed, but we can do something for the future. The native people want to rebuild and restore the good relationship with the Catholic church that was there for about 125 years."
Native Indians across Canada have now filed more than 1,600 lawsuits against the federal government and the various Christian denominations that ran Canada's 130 native residential schools until the last ones were disbanded in the 1970s.
The 10 complainants in the lawsuit settled this week were sexually abused at St. Joseph's by either Oblate brother Len Doughty or Harold McIntee. The 10 men, plus the estate of another victim who committed suicide, claimed damages for sexual assault and what they charged was the residential school's general attack on native culture.
Former Prince George Bishop Hubert O'Connor was principal of St. Joseph's at the time Doughty and McIntee worked there. O'Connor -- who recently had several sex convictions related to St. Joseph's overturned on appeal -- was accused in the native men's lawsuit of ignoring complaints they were being assaulted while sleeping, boarding, working and taking classes at St. Joseph's.
The native men's lawyer, Don Sorochan, said the negotiations that led to the Catholic church and federal government accepting "vicarious liability" for the sexual assaults came about largely because of the extra efforts of B.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Bryan Williams. "He negotiated it in two days. He's a leader in trying to offer an alternative way to resolve these disputes," Sorochan said, noting that Williams was the lawyer who represented the B.C. government in treaty negotiations with the Nisga'a.
Shawn Tupper, who is the federal government's senior policy adviser on native issues, said he would not be surprised if the out-of-court settlement in the St. Joseph's case helped lead to the early resolution of numerous other potentially lengthy residential school lawsuits.
Sorochan, LaPlante and Tupper also said they were impressed by how the native complainants wanted to put the case behind them. "The bottom line is that all the parties were able to find some common ground so that we can get on with the healing of the victims. We want to allow these guys to get on with the closure they seek," Tupper said.