A court date has been set in the case of Gerry Gaston Barton, a Nova Scotia man who is suing the provincial government and the RCMP over his wrongful conviction for the rape of a 14-year-old girl more than four decades ago.
Five days have been set aside to hear Barton's civil case, which is due to proceed in the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia on April 7.
Dale Dunlop, Barton's lawyer, said his client is not asking for a lot.
"We just want to open a conversation and arrive at something that's fair and reasonable for 40 years of stigma of being a convicted sex offender," Dunlop told reporters on Thursday.
Barton was 19 years old and living in Digby County in 1970 when a teenage neighbour accused him of raping her and fathering her child.
The truth about Barton — now 64 years old and living in Morinville, Alta. — started to come out in 2008 when the RCMP reopened the case. According to court documents, that criminal investigation revealed Barton's accuser had repeatedly been sexually assaulted by her brother, starting when she was just nine years old.
The woman told police that her brother was the father of her child — and she had accused Barton because her father was not willing to accept that her brother had sexually assaulted her and caused her pregnancy.
"The RCMP obtained DNA samples from all involved and testing overwhelmingly eliminated Mr. Barton as the father of the child born to the complainant," reads one court decision.
"These tests also overwhelmingly indicated that the complainant's brother was the father of the child."
There is a publication ban shielding the identity of the woman.
Conviction quashed in 2011
Barton appealed his conviction and it was quashed in 2011, with the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal ruling that a miscarriage of justice had occurred.
Since then, Barton's lawyer has been trying to get an apology and compensation for the wrongful conviction.
"Nobody in the RCMP or the Nova Scotia attorney general's office took any responsibility for his wrongful conviction," Dunlop said. "They would have to prove their case in court."
The Crown prosecutor at the time — now a retired Supreme Court Justice — and the original RCMP investigator are both scheduled to testify in court.
"Here's the delicious — and to my mind despicable — irony," Dunlop said. "The province and the RCMP have said to Gerry, 'You can't win your case because all the documents are gone. The documents we destroyed.'"
Few official records remain from Barton's 1970 conviction.
"I sympathize very much with any individual that has gone through what Mr. Barton has gone through," said Lena Diab, the attorney general, as she responded to news of Barton's lawsuit.
"As a lawyer I can tell you that these cases are very complex and there's a lot of facts. A lot of the facts will come out in the court and these are not facts that are suitable for me to be discussing with the media."