Decades after alleged sex abuse by an RCMP officer, two men file class action lawsuit
By Carolyn Dunn, CBC News Posted: Mar 18, 2016 4:00 PM E
It has been 13 years since Carl Schneider and Mark McGinnis went public with their painful story of alleged sexual abuse at the hands of an RCMP officer when they were teens at Kingsclear, the now notorious New Brunswick reform school, in the 1980s.
Schneider recently became a grandfather, McGinnis is the primary caregiver to his three young children.
A lot has changed over the years for these men who, coincidentally, both live in Edmonton.
Still, in many ways, a part of them remains the hard-scrabbled teenaged boys who were sentenced to serve time at the Kingsclear Youth Training Centre near Fredericton.
Kingsclear was supposed to put kids in trouble with the law, back on the right path, but, instead, Schneider and McGinnis claim, it made them easy targets for sexual predators, including, they say, then RCMP staff sergeant Clifford McCann.
“This is always weighing on my mind, weighing in my heart”, Schneider says.
It’s impossible to really move on from it, McGinnis says. “I try to let it go, but each and every time something bad happens, this monster comes back to haunt me and it makes me very angry. It’s hard to live in my skin sometimes.”
Their day in court
The now-closed Kingsclear institution was the subject of intense media attention and a public inquiry in the 1990s when it was revealed that hundreds of boys there had been sexually abused over decades by people in authority, in particular guard Karl Toft, who was convicted and sentenced to 13 years in prison.
McCann’s name surfaced later. He denied the allegations, and an RCMP investigation — and a subsequent independent inquiry into that investigation — did not result in any charges against him.
Still, Schneider and McGinnis say they continue to be haunted by the abuse they suffered at the hands of someone who was sworn to protect them. And their anger stems from the fact that there has been no official acknowledgment of what happened to them more than 30 years ago.
So last month they launched a class action lawsuit to finally get their day in court. “Do you need a lie detector test? What do you need to get me into court?” Schneider shakes his head at the idea he’s starting yet another legal proceeding so many years later.
The lawsuit names the attorney general of Canada, who is responsible for the RCMP, and the province of New Brunswick as the only defendants.
It claims the “RCMP had a duty to oversee its employees and as such were negligent and continue to be negligent” in not dealing with McCann.
None of the claims in this civil suit have been proven in court, and neither the federal government nor New Brunswick have responded to the suit. Both declined comment for this story.
Roch Dupont is the lawyer representing Schneider and McGinnis, and says: “When we interviewed these people, we felt they had a story to tell, that the type of abuse that they endured should never have happened.
“It seems to me that the individuals involved were never, for some reason, taken seriously or believed.”
Not for lack of trying
In 2003, Carl Schneider and Mark McGinnis told their story to CBC News The National as part of an investigative documentary.
That report exposed numerous instances when McCann signed teen boys, including Schneider and McGinnis, out of the New Brunswick facility without consent or authority, while he was a police officer in the area.
The men are among seven who later reported McCann to police, claiming he plied them with alcohol on the outings and sexually abused them.
Schneider says he was threatened with death if he told anyone; McGinnis says McCann vowed to keep him locked up if he spoke about what took place.
McCann’s contact with Kingsclear residents and local athletes had long raised suspicions in RCMP circles.
But two criminal investigations into claims that he sexually assaulted some of the youth resulted in no charges.
Still, the questions raised in the CBC documentary prompted a complaint to the independent RCMP’s Public Complaints Commission.
In response, it opened a multi-million dollar review into how the New Brunswick RCMP had investigated sexual abuse at the reform school, the largest investigation in its history at the time.
It found “…inadequacies in the RCMP’s criminal investigation of both the staff at NBTS [Kingsclear] and Staff Sergeant McCann, some of which are serious enough to create the perception of a cover-up.” Ultimately, however, there was no “substantiated evidence” the bungled probes amounted to a conspiracy of silence, the report said.
It was a devastating blow to the men who had complained to police about McCann, and then taken their account public.
The RCMP closed the investigation, virtually eliminating any chances there would be criminal charges. “It’s very hard for a victim to convince everybody else what happened when there’s no courts involved,” Schneider says.
So, this class action suit may be their last hope.
“People more or less turned a blind eye to what occurred, and they were negligent in their duty of care,” says Dupont, their lawyer. “It turned out to be a nightmare.”
Just knowing a lawsuit has been launched has given Carl Schneider renewed hope there will be justice.
Maybe this time, Schneider says, someone will believe them and take action. “It’s just been one hurdle after another, and the truth has to come out,” he says.
Mark McGinnis is a bit more cynical about finding any solace. “I am a prisoner, but I live at home. That’s what I am, I am a prisoner of the RCMP, of Sgt. Cliff McCann.”
McGinnis says his best hope would be a financial settlement that would help his kids have a better life than he did. For him, “it’s been too long. The damage has been too severe.”