Scathing cries rang out as Brent Gabona swiftly exited his courtroom Wednesday morning in Rosthern, Saskatchewan.
“You are going to hell,” shouted supporters of the alleged victims of Gabona. “There is no God for the damned, Brent…why are you wearing a cross?” Son of a bitch.
Gabona is accused of raping residents of the Shepherd’s Villa nursing home in Hepburn, Saskatchewan, where he worked. He was charged on May 10 this year with eight counts relating to sexual abuse – five counts of sexual assault and three counts of sexual exploitation of a disabled person – between 1992 and 2006.
The alleged victims could not speak or take care of themselves and needed help eating, bathing or dressing.
Rick Boguski and his brother Darryl sat huddled together in the crowded Lion Community Hall where the provincial circuit court was located. They listened as Gabona, dressed in a red shirt and denim pants, explain that he had still not found a lawyer. He had two weeks to get one.
Speaking outside the venue, Rick said he was appalled at the delay. His brother Darryl is one of the victims named in the case. Darryl has cerebral palsy and autism, is blind and cannot speak. Rick said it was moving for Darryl to hear Gabona speak.
“Daryl actually reacted in the courtroom,” Rick said, getting emotional. “I assured Daryl all along that he didn’t have to worry about Brent Gabona anymore, that he was safe with me.”
The couple traveled from Alberta for the affair. Rick said it’s been difficult traveling to deal with a justice system that doesn’t seem to deliver justice to everyone, but they feel compelled to come.
“I hope the people of Saskatchewan will hear this, support us and say enough is enough. That we need to start taking this a little more seriously.”
Need for a wider field of investigation: families
Gabona was charged after a three-week police investigation. He told CBC the charges were laid after he presented himself to police.
Rick thinks there are more victims than the five named in this case. The same goes for other families who had members in Gabona’s care, but their calls for a broader investigation have gone unanswered.
Al and Naomi Hawkins, who live in Red Deer, Alta., were among the Rosthern supporters, about 60 kilometers northeast of Saskatoon. Gabona was the primary caregiver for their late son Derek for over two years.
Their son began to display serious behavioral problems after being cared for by Gabona. They have no doubt it was related to abuse and say they have documents that can show it.
“Our son was tagged because of his outbursts, and for the rest of his life after Shepherds Villa, the finger was pointed at his chest,” Al Hawkins said. “The finger is pointed at everyone now.”
They said the police told them that their son did not fit the victim’s profile.
Jacqueline Forbes shares their frustrations. She was also at Rosthern and said she strongly believed her brother Dean Astle, 38, was also a victim. He has been a resident of the nursing home since 2006 and requires constant care. She said he had been in Gabona’s direct custody for three years.
“Unfortunately the police or the Crown are unwilling to investigate,” she said. “They basically closed the door on us.”
She said she was told it was because her brother did not speak and could not provide a witness statement.
Inclusion Canada released a statement on Wednesday that people with intellectual disabilities are at higher risk of being sexually assaulted, but they are often stereotyped as suggestible, unable to communicate or lacking credibility. All people with developmental disabilities can participate in court with appropriate support and accommodations.
The mission of the national organization is to advance the full inclusion and human rights of people with developmental disabilities and their families.
“We expect nothing less than a thorough investigation and that all people with developmental disabilities and their families are adequately supported and accommodated in the justice system,” said Krista Carr, Executive Vice President of Inclusion Canada, in the press release.
Rick noted that amidst all the Gabona talk, even Darryl started verbalizing his thoughts.
“Darryl said something very deep, and people maybe don’t realize how deep it was, but after talking about Brent Gabona and what happened, Daryl said to me ‘Fuh -Breh,'” Rick said.
“And what Daryl was basically saying was fk off, Brent.”
Rick said he and Darryl would continue to stand up for others. He hopes Inclusion Canada’s national attention will “wake up Saskatchewan, wake up the Crown, wake up the police” to do more.