Editor’s note: The story below contains some graphic descriptions of sexual abuse. Reader discretion is advised.
The Alberta government is in court fighting a claim for compensation brought forward on behalf of thousands of mostly Indigenous people who claim they were abused either sexually, physically or emotionally while under the protection of Child Services.
People like Steven Morin and Clinton John Marty.
(Steven Morin talking to APTN Investigates Journalist Chris Stewart about his abuse while in foster care)
Morin says that while it’s not easy, he is telling his story in hopes that he can prevent more instances of abuse in the future.
He was just five years old when his foster mother’s boyfriend began sexually assaulting him. The abuse continued for five years. He says he was assaulted almost every week.
(A young Steven Morin in happier times)
He started misbehaving and was taken out of the home.
But not before he was threatened by his long time assailant.
“The last time I seen him in person, he told me in the shower as he was doing his last . . . his last . . . whatever you want to call it on me. After he was done, he told me. This will be forever engraved into my memory. And I quote, “If you ever tell anyone about the things I have done to you . . . I will find you and I will kill you,” Morin told APTN Investigates.
He says he told a group home about the abuse when he was 12 years old.
“They ended up getting some investigators. Nothing was done about it. It was a waste of time.”
Morin left the child welfare system at age 16. He couch surfed on his home territory, Enoch Cree Nation, just West of Edmonton.
One day he saw the face of the man in the newspaper and on the local news. John Edward Beaver was wanted in connection with over a dozen charges of sexual assault.
“I don’t know why I couldn’t look away from his photo. I had to look at his photo. I still don’t know why I had to look at his photo. And I remember waiting the next day. Did they find him yet? I remember on the fifth or sixth day, they ended up finding him. I was like ‘wow!’ The relief . . .” Morin recalled.
John Edward Beaver was charged with more than a dozen counts of sexual assault. But he would never stand trial for those charges. He died in his sleep in 2014.
(John Edward Beaver died before facing over a dozen sexual assault charges, including sexually assaulting Steven Morin)
Court records show a conviction for child pornography where he was sentenced to six months prison in 1999. With that conviction, he should have not been allowed to be in the same house with a five-year-old.
Morin received a $35,000 dollar injury claim from an Alberta government fund for victims of crime. He says he was too young and foolish when he received the money. One month later, it was all gone.
He spent it on alcohol and hard drugs to help numb the pain.
“In 2015, I really fell off and I went straight downhill. I went through a really bad breakup and I started using more than just cocaine. I was using meth. I was using heroin. Smoking it. I was drinking.”
Clinton John Marty lives with his wife on the Elizabeth Metis Settlement, south of Cold Lake, Alberta.
He and his brother were put into a Catholic home in Edmonton.
“At eight years old there was a sister there. I’m not going to name her name. She might still be alive today. She did select some of the older boys to come into her room. And there they would select a little boy to go in and have oral sex with them. And once we were done, we were brought back to our bed, and told not to say anything,” Marty said.
(Clinton Marty says he was sexually abused while in a Catholic Home. He says the child welfare system failed him.)
He said he reported the abuse to the social workers there. But, he added, “nine of out ten times, you were labelled as a troubled kid if you talked about it.”
Marty says his own father abused him and his mother informed Alberta Child Protection not to give Marty and his brother to their father. They did anyway.
“Child welfare placed us, not once but twice. And he abused us sexually, physically, and very emotionally. And he was charged for that. And he never faced the charges because he committed suicide so he didn’t have to. So we lived with that as well.”
When Marty was 12 years old, he and his brother were given back to their mother. That is very rare in cases where the government has a permanent guardianship order.
The two brothers began to fight.
“We were both very violent towards each other because of the way things were in the homes. And I had kicked my brother in the side of my head. My Mother screams out, ‘Oh my God, What has happened to my boys?’ And I can remember clear as day looking at her and saying those boys are gone a long time ago. This is what they created,” he said.
(A young Clinton John Marty)
Like Steven Morin, Clinton John Marty was changed forever. Marty can’t hold down a job. He only completed Grade 5. He has nightmares. He was diagnosed with Severe Childhood Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
“There are nights where I sleep two-and-a-half hours a night. When I close my eyes, it’s flashbacks. It’s nightmares. I’m unreliable. Without my wife, who has looked after me for all these years, I probably would have been dead a long time ago,” Marty told APTN Investigates.
Lawyer Robert Lee has two class action lawsuits ongoing against the province of Alberta.
He has been working to get compensation for victims of the child welfare system for 20 years.
“They shouldn’t be living in poverty,” Lee said. “They shouldn’t be living in circumstances where they have to choose between paying rent instead of buying food.”
Steven Morin has not yet joined in one of the class actions but he is considering suing the Alberta government. He has talked to Lee several times.
“As a five to nine year old, and so he told the child welfare system, this horrible thing, the most horrible thing that could happen to a child, has happened to me. And he gets no help. He goes to the system that put him there and says, you did this to me. Now help me. I’m broken. Now fix me. And they do nothing,” the lawyer said.
Lee said the provincial government is fighting him every step of the way.
“And what I thought would take six months is going to take two years. And so my clients can’t afford to pay a lawyer. I can’t afford to work for free. And that is the dilemma. If you want to go through our legal system, you better have money. And so if you don’t have money to pay for a lawyer, you are just out of luck. And that is wrong.”
Clinton Marty has not had an easy life. But he and his wife have raised four children. He says he quit drinking when they were young. He wanted to be a better parent than his were.
“To know that I’ve been with the same woman since I’ve been 16 years old. And that we made a beautiful family together, in spite of everything. I know I’ve set my children up to never ever have to experience what I’ve been through. To let them know the things I went through. I could have brought that upon them. But I didn’t. And I did it for my family, and to make sure the cycle breaks. You can’t have a repetitive cycle of abuse. Alcoholism, drug addiction. It can’t continue. Someone has to be the one to step up and say enough is enough,” Marty said.
(Caption Clinton and his wife Carrie Lynn reminisce over old family photos.)
As for Steven Morin, he is almost finished writing a book on his life. He says it helps him heal.
He has started a non-profit business called the Indigenous Children’s Mentoring Society. He want to offer a mentorship program to Indigenous children, similar to Big Brothers and Big Sisters. He is starting in his home community of Enoch First Nation. He is looking forward to starting his own family.
(Steven Morin speaking at his event December 2018 called Breaking the Chains. The event was in support of victims of abuse)
“I will someday, hopefully, make that family for myself. I can be the father and the parent I never got to have. I can teach my future daughter or son that I wasn’t able to teach. Like how to tie your shoe. How to swing on a swing. I’m loving life right now.
“This is healing — the next step on my healing journey. And I hope I can help others heal while I’m at it.”