Ottawa ordered to pay former cadets who were sexually abused

CBC News Posted: Apr 07, 2006 9:04 PM ET Last Updated: Apr 07, 2006 10:24 PM ET

Thirty-five former sea cadets have won $8 million in compensation from the federal government for sexual abuse they suffered more than 25 years ago.

Justice Austen Cullen of the B.C. Supreme Court ruled Friday the government was guilty of negligence because it failed to protect the cadets from sexual abuse.

The cadets, who were between ages 12 and 17, were sexually abused by officers aboard HMCS Discovery which is stationed in B.C.'s Stanley Park. The cadets were abused between 1964 and 1980.

"In many cases, a lot of these individuals didn't tell even their parents or their siblings," said lawyer Robert Gibbens, who represented the former cadets in the class-action suit. "They just kept it to themselves, this dirty little secret, for 10, 20 years."

Gibbens said that in some cases, the cadets did tell other officers who were also abusers. He said in at least one case, a cadet was told to keep it quiet.

"It's been a long time coming. Hopefully this settlement will provide some comfort and some closure for them," Gibbens said.

Two of the officers, Ralph Bremner and Conrad Sundman, already have been found guilty of sexual abuse and other sex crimes.

Sundman was sentenced to seven years in prison three years ago after earlier pleading guilty to 13 counts of indecent assault and three counts of buggery.

Bremner was convicted of four counts of indecent assault on boys aged 13 to15.

Friday's decision comes after several years of criminal and civil proceedings. Gibbens said $1.8 million is also being set aside for cadets who have not yet come forward.


After decades of silence, former sea cadet speaks out about sexual abuse: 'It was a den of iniquity'


VANCOUVER — From Monday's Globe and Mail

Published Monday, Apr. 10, 2006 12:00AM EDT

Last updated Tuesday, Mar. 17, 2009 10:46AM EDT

William White shudders when he recalls the horrific sexual abuse he suffered while serving in HMCS Discovery's sea cadet program in the late 1960s.

"It was a den of iniquity . . . just bizarre," said Mr. White, a 52-year-old fence repairman who lives in Surrey and alleges he is one of at least 200 former cadets who may have been sexually abused.

After decades of silence, he agreed to speak out in the hope that more will come forward to claim their share of a $10-million compensation package approved last week by the B.C. Supreme Court.

Mr. White was the lead plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit that argued the Attorney-General of Canada was negligent and did not protect cadets from being prey to sexual misconduct. It also named as defendants the Navy League of Canada, as well as officers Ralph Bremner, Conrad Sundman, Beverly Wilson and the executive estate of the late Clarence Anderson.

Mr. Bremner and Mr. Sundman were found guilty of sexual abuse and other sex crimes. Mr. Wilson was found too old and unfit to stand trial.

In 2001, Mr. Sundman was sentenced to seven years in prison after pleading guilty to 13 counts of indecent assault and three counts of buggery. Mr. Bremner was convicted of four counts of indecent assault on boys aged between 13 and 15.

In a statement of defence, lawyers acting for the Attorney-General argued that Mr. White was guilty of prolonged, inordinate and inexcusable delay in launching the class-action suit and seeking compensation. They also denied that "Her Majesty's servants, employees, agents or representatives" were negligent.

Under the settlement, 35 victims who launched the class-action lawsuit are eligible to share in a compensation package worth $8-million.

Another $1.8-million has been set aside for cadets who were not party to the class-action suit, but who were also abused and believe they may be entitled to compensation.

"I need to get the word out that they have only 45 days to come forward otherwise they are not going to get any compensation," Mr. White said.

Mr. White joined the sea cadets at 13, hoping it would be a stepping stone to a career as a globe-trotting naval officer.

In an interview yesterday, he said that soon after joining, he became the target of ex-navy officers who preyed on sea cadets, who he said plied them with alcohol and sexually assaulted them at HMCS Discovery's Vancouver naval base, on military buses, and in their homes.

Mr. White, a single parent, who spent time in jail for armed robbery, has put his life back together and said he maintains his sanity by concentrating on work and his two sons.

But he said other cadets will have been so ashamed of what they experienced at HMCS Discovery from 1964 to 1980 that they may not have told anyone.

In the interview, he said his first experience of sexual abuse was while he was standing at attention on a crowded military bus that was used to pick up cadets at the entrance to Vancouver's Stanley Park and take them into the naval base.

Mr. Anderson, who was sitting at the back of the bus, "would open your fly and put his mouth on your penis," he said. Horrified and embarrassed, Mr. White said he felt helpless. "You are shocked," he said. "You can't punch them on the face because you just don't know what to do. "You hope it won't happen again. . . . but it happens again and again and again."

Mr. White has alleged that cadets were frequently invited over to Mr. Anderson's house, where they were offered drinks and shown pornographic magazines before being sexually abused in his bedroom.

Lawyers acting for the victims argued that the officers had a degree of control over the cadets in a military environment that the civil world cannot conceive.

After he got fed up with the abuse and quit the sea cadets in 1970, Mr. White said he kept those experiences to himself for nearly three decades.

He was persuaded to seek out a lawyer only after hearing about Sheldon Kennedy, the former National Hockey League player, who confronted his coach Graham James and had him sent to jail for sexually abusing Mr. Kennedy and another teenaged player in the early 1990s.

"I thought that if Sheldon could do it, so could I," he said.


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