Northern News Services
Published Friday, February 11, 2008
IQALUIT - Former NWT premier Joe Handley may be called upon to testify during the latest lawsuit involving convicted sex offender Ed Horne.
Last week lawyers in an Iqaluit courtroom debated whether Handley should answer questions during the pre-trial. Handley was deputy minister of Education when Horne was teaching in the territory.
In an interview with Nunavut News/North last week, Handley said he would provide any information that would be of help to the courts in this case.
"I only started with the government in 1985," said Handley, adding he believes Horne was already under police investigation at that time.
"I didn't know the guy, hadn't met the guy," he said.
Whether Handley will be needed and two days of other of pre-trial motions ended with little decided on Wednesday.
Roughly 70 plaintiffs are suing Nunavut and Northwest Territories governments for failing to protect them from Horne, a former teacher convicted of 28 sex offences stemming from his time in Nunavut schools during the 1970s and '80s.
Robert Dewar, the lawyer representing the Nunavut and NWT governments, said Wednesday that Mark Cleveland, also a former NWT deputy minister of Education, had been appointed to answer questions on behalf of the governments.
Geoff Budden, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said his clients have already heard from Cleveland and he was not able to provide sufficient answers to all their questions. He added if Handley is not forced to appear ahead of time, the plaintiffs have the right to order him to testify at trial.
On Tuesday Budden asked the court to hear testimony from all the plaintiffs in the upcoming trial.
"We have to establish these men were abused the way they said they were," said Budden.
Dewar, however, asked that a representative group of eight litigants be chosen to testify.
He said hearing from 70 plaintiffs would not be efficient or fair, and that a bias could develop after hearing from such a high number of litigants.
"Human bias develops after you hear something over and over again," said Dewar.
Budden told the court the governments should offer counselling for the plaintiffs before the trial begins. Dewar asked for an adjournment for more time to consider finding treatment for the litigants. Budden said Judge Beverley Browne was supportive of the idea.
"(The plaintiffs) are encouraged by what the judge had to say," said Budden.
Browne has reserved judgment on the motions until March 20.
In 2002 the NWT and Nunavut governments reached a $21 million out-of-court settlement with 82 of Horne's past students.