Lawyer William M Leahey is fighting to ensure no one will be abused in government care.
(William M Leahey )
William Leahey is living proof that the political spectrum is not a straight line but a circle walk for enough out on the right wing and you'll met someone coming at you from a left wing.
Leahey, 43 is a self-described ""tenacious and aggressive litigation lawyer and partner in the firm Leahey Nearing. With the force and conviction of a successful courtroom lawyer he lectures reporter on how government should stop being so intrusive get out peoples lives, lower taxes, and let them get on in life by being responsible for themselves.
If he were interested in political he says with a laugh that it would be with the Reform party and you know how much support I'd get. We could fit the whole party in here, " he says referring to the four setter Barring Street Offices.
But i am not he adds i am not a member of any party. I have no inside connections. I'll never be a judge. He laughs again and that's just fine.
Leahey has become every corrupt politician's worst nightmare(and in Nova Scotia that covers a lot of ground): a righteous man with a mission.
Since 1992 he has been vigorously pursuing the provincial government for compensation for men and women who were sexually and physically abused at children's while they were wards at provincially run homes for girls in Truro and for boys in Shelburne.
Leahey discovered the issue when Gail Roose came to him in 1992 for help with her marriage breakdown and added she was also trying to get over the psychological damage of having been beaten and kept as a sex slave by a guard at the truro home when she was 13.
The Guard is now a prison but Leahey and Roose wanted more. He wanted damages and she wanted to be able to get up on the stand face those people and tell her story, " Leahey says. They rejected an out of court settlement and won $75,000 in the compensation. That was raised to $85, 000 on appeal including $35,000 in punitive damages but Leahey wanted more.
He wanted - still wants because the case is wending its way up to the Supreme Court of Canada - more in punitive damages for his client and this is at the heart of what is turning into a crusade for the mild-mannered articulate lawyer.
Punitive damages are rarely awarded in Canada because a complainant in this case Roose has a prove not only negligence but also that the circumstances were so callous and shocking (in this case that others knew she was being beaten and raped and did nothing) that the court must punish those people with additional damages. Both sides are taking the case to the country's top court.
Despite all the publicity and court action about child abuse in schools and institutions in recent years. Leahey says this is the first time court has upheld the principle that when the government acts as the protector of last resort for a child such as Roose - Whose only crime was her mother died of cancer and her father abandoned her - it does have a responsibility to look after the children it takes into its care(Lawyers for the province argued Roose was willing participant in her beatings and rapes)
It established that there were an atmosphere of toleration of pedophilia by the male guards toward the female children Leahey says and that is the crux of the issue "You can't change pedophiles.
They are what they are he says but as far as I'm concerned the people who protected (them) are worse by far. They who professed to be good. God-fearing Christians condemned these children to a life of psychological torture and personality disorders
Using Roose as a fulcrum and his male clients from Shelburne as a level Leahey has begun prying the lid off RG-72 the huge secret file that is the accumulated records of the Department of Community Services and its predecessor departments. The Abuse is a given What Leahey wants to establish is the same sort of ugliness that came out of the recently aborted Somalia hearings what the chain of command knew and what if didn't do about it. Leahey can't disclose information that hasn't been presented in court but says he is close to establishing links up through the school administration all the way to the minister's office.
When it's over Leahey says he hopes no longer will be able to say "Hire this person and keep him in that job, regardless of what he's done because he's a good party worker. It's a tall order considering that proponents of Nova Scotia's ingrained patronage system recently drove a sitting premier to resign.
What's for Leahey? has be made enough money to be able to take on large number's of indigent abuse victims? No I can't afford it, and my partner has reminded me of that fact more than once he says Basically he says, " I hate bullies.
Leahey was an asthmatic weak-ling when he was growing up in Dartmouth the fourth of seven children of a commercial traveler and his stay at home wife and although he started talking judo lessons at 11 outgrew his asthma at 13 and joined the military reserves at 16, Leahey like his abuse victims never got over being bullied as a child.
As a good guilt-ridden catholic he want to St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish and studied. economics. He met and married his wife the former Jane Anne Mackinnon at the end of his second year. They now have four children between the age of 10 and 18. After the graduation in 1976 she supported them working as a nurse while he studied law at Dalhousie law school and afterward until he established a practice.
Leahey says he had no grand plan when he become a lawyer other then to have a career. He started in real estate law with Spencer and Co. in Halifax in 1980 with the idea that it would enable him to meet a lot of people. It did but he found the work boring and gradually switched to litigation work, where he could put his public speaking sills - learned as a reader at church and in school debating societies - to good use.
Clearly this member of what he describes as a pretty driven family has done well. He's a founding partner of the law firm of Leahey nearing started in 1994.
But he admits his involvement in the child-abuse cases of the province's ward has touched a nerve that goes beyond career considerations. His profession he says enables him to respond to deeply felt emotions about people who use positions of power to do violence to those who are weaker then they.
His right wing view that government should stay out of people's lives meets the left-wing view that government must help its citizens with the Leahey amendment that if government insists on getting involved it had better do it right.
In spare time from his 12 hour days Leahey helps his wife taxi the kids to basketball, baseball and the Nova Scotia Tattoo; he reads including being a reader at St. Vincent's Parish; and pursues his life long interest in chess and military history.