Lack of lawyer delays trial for former Sask. care home worker accused of sexually abusing patients

·4 min read
Rick Boguski, right, stands with his brother Darryl at the Rosthern, Sask., circuit court location on Wednesday, July 13, 2022. Darryl has cerebral palsy and autism, and is blind. Darryl's former caregiver has been charged with assaulting him.  (Kendall Latimer/CBC - image credit)
Rick Boguski, right, stands with his brother Darryl at the Rosthern, Sask., circuit court location on Wednesday, July 13, 2022. Darryl has cerebral palsy and autism, and is blind. Darryl's former caregiver has been charged with assaulting him. (Kendall Latimer/CBC - image credit)

Scathing cries rang out amid Brent Gabona's swift exit from his court hearing Wednesday morning in Rosthern, Sask.

"You're going to hell," called supporters of Gabona's alleged victims. "There's no God for the damned, Brent.… why are you wearing a cross? Son of a bitch."

Gabona is accused of violating care home residents at Shepherd's Villa in Hepburn, Sask., where he worked. He was charged on May 10 of this year with eight sex abuse-related charges — five counts of sexual assault and three counts of sexual exploitation of a person with a disability — between 1992 and 2006.

The alleged victims couldn't speak or care for themselves and required help to eat, bathe or dress.

Rick Boguski and his brother Darryl sat huddled together in the jam-packed Lion's community hall where the provincial circuit court was being. They listened to Gabona, clad in a red shirt and denim pants, explain that he still had not secured a lawyer. He was given two weeks to get one.

Speaking outside the hall, Rick said he's appalled by the delay. His brother Darryl is one of the victims named in the case. Darryl has cerebral palsy and autism, is blind and doesn't speak. Rick said it was emotional for Darryl to hear Gabona speak.

"Daryl reacted actually in the courtroom," Rick said, becoming emotional. "I've been assuring Daryl all the way along that he doesn't have to worry about Brent Gabona anymore, that he's safe with me."

The pair travelled from Alberta for the matter. Rick said it's been difficult travelling to deal with a justice system that doesn't appear to have justice for all, but that they feel obliged to come.

"I'm hoping that the people of Saskatchewan will hear this, and will support us, and say enough is enough. That we need to start taking this case a little more seriously."

Wider scope of investigation needed: families

Gabona was charged after a three-week police investigation. He told CBC that the charges were laid after he came forward to police.

Rick believes there are more victims than the five named in this case. So do other families who had members under Gabona's care, but their calls for a wider investigation have gone unanswered.

Al and Naomi Hawkins, who live in Red Deer, Alta., were among supporters in Rosthern. Gabona was their late son Derek's primary caregiver for more than two years.

Their son began to display severe behavioural problems after coming under Gabona's care. They have no doubt this was linked to abuse and say they have documentation that can show it.

"Our son was labelled because of his outbursts, and for the balance of his life after Shepherds Villa the finger was pointed at his chest," Al Hawkins said. "The finger is pointed back at everyone else now. "

They said police told them that their son didn't fit the victim profile.

Jacqueline Forbes shares their frustrations. She was also in Rosthern and said she firmly believes her brother Dean Astle, 38, was also a victim. He's been a resident of the care home since 2006 and requires constant care. She said he was under Gabona's direct-care for three years.

"Unfortunately the police or the Crown are not willing to investigate," she said. "They have basically shut the door on us."

She said she was told it was because her brother is non-verbal and cannot provide a witness statement.

Kendall Latimer/CBC
Kendall Latimer/CBC

Inclusion Canada released a statement Wednesday that said people with intellectual disabilities are more at-risk of experiencing sexual assault, yet they are often stereotyped as suggestible, unable to communicate, or lacking in credibility. All people with intellectual disabilities can participate in court with appropriate support and accommodations.

The national organization's mission is to advance the full inclusion and human rights of people with an intellectual disability and their families.

"We expect nothing less than a fulsome investigation, and for all persons with intellectual disabilities and their families to be adequately supported and accommodated in the justice system," said Krista Carr, executive vice-president of Inclusion Canada, in the statement.

Rick noted that amid all the talk about Gabona, even Darryl has started to verbalize his thoughts.

"Darryl said something that was very profound, and people might not realize just how profound it was, but after we talked about Brent Gabona and what has taken place, Daryl said to me 'Fuh-Breh,'" Rick said.

"And what Daryl was saying, essentially, was f--k off, Brent."

Rick said he and Darryl will continue to advocate for others. He's hopeful the national attention from Inclusion Canada will "wake Saskatchewan up, wake the Crown up, wake the police up" to taking more action.

WATCH | Families want more investigation into abuse at Sask. care home:

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