Children in provincial care sue Alberta government
Woman abused by murderer Thomas Svekla part of class action lawsuit
A massive lawsuit claiming the Alberta government failed to take legal action or seek compensation on behalf of children in its care is moving towards trial.
The suit claims the province failed to apply for victims-of-crime compensation or file personal injury claims for children abused prior to or while in the care of Alberta Child Welfare.
A very preliminary estimate of the unresolved claims has been set as high as $890 million.
The suit includes children who were placed in provincial care from July 1, 1966 to Feb. 19, 2008.
"They didn't protect me," said one woman who spoke to CBC News, but cannot be named. "So while they're protecting themselves now, they should have protected me."
The woman was sexually abused by her foster-mother’s boyfriend, Thomas Svekla, who's now a convicted murderer, when she was five-years-old.
"It hurts," she said. "It hurts that it's my government that's not doing anything for me and really not caring."
The woman is now suing Svekla, her former foster mother and the Province of Alberta for $2.5 million in a separate suit.
The province was the woman’s legal guardian and should have taken legal action for her, said Edmonton lawyer Robert Lee.
Pure negligence, says lawyer
"They should have applied for crimes compensation for her," he said. "At a minimum they should have told her grandmother that that needed to be done."
"They didn't do any of those things," he said. "Pure negligence; pure incompetence."
Lee believes more than half of all children in care over the last five decades are in the same boat and are eligible to join the class action lawsuit.
Lawyers in Calgary and Edmonton are urging victims to come forward.
"There's been advertisements in the papers now," said Lee. "That's for people to be aware of the class action for this failure to sue for these kids."
All children who suffered personal injury while in provincial care are automatically included in the lawsuit and must ask to be left out if they do not want to be part of the lawsuit.
"If they don't want to be in the class action, if they don't want to be part of any lawsuit, they can opt out."
The government won't comment while the case is before the courts, where it's expected to be for a number of years yet.
"We just have to keep fighting for something that we know is right," said the woman abused by her mother's boyfriend. "And just keep doing it no matter how long it's taking."
"We just have to keep fighting for something we know we should win and hopefully we will."