Calgary Sun

January 13, 2001

Righting a wrong: The other side

By LICIA CORBELLA -- Calgary Sun

Unravelling a story is somewhat like peeling an onion. Very often the story comes out in layers.

While I always strive for accuracy, on occasion, I have unintentionally missed the mark.

And miss the mark I did with the Wednesday and Thursday columns I wrote regarding Clayton Giles, the 14-year-old Calgary boy who went on a hunger strike to protest what he says was his "victimization" at the hands of the Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta.

In fact, this is the biggest error I have ever made in my 15 years in journalism.

I feel that it is incumbent on me to set the record straight.

I have now more fully gone through the three boxes of files regarding the custody and divorce proceedings between Eric Giles, Clayton's dad, and Marnie Harrison, his mother.

In my Thursday column, I was critical of how judges treat people who go before the courts without a lawyer in tow. I said that in every case I have seen, the judges treat the lawyerless applicant or respondent with contempt. I think that was largely accurate, but apparently, the courts are trying to remedy that.

Where I erred is when I criticized a Feb. 18, 1993, order given by Court of Queen's Bench Justice E.A. Hutchinson.

In it, Hutchinson ruled that if Eric Giles made any more applications before the courts he would lose access to his children until the application was heard.

I thought that was wrong. Not anymore.

It is now evident to me -- and was clearly evident to the courts -- that Eric Giles was making dozens of applications before the courts as a means of harassing and impoverishing his ex-wife, and therefore his children.

At one point, Giles brought six applications before the court in just slightly more than one month -- clearly an abuse of the legal process.

Giles, who represented himself, paid no legal fees. His wife, however, a schoolteacher, had to hire a lawyer to represent her while she worked. Court records show that her legal costs bankrupted her.

What's more, Giles was not paying child support at the time, so every time he made an application he was literally taking money away from his kids.

Yesterday, Giles admitted that he has only paid a "couple thousand dollars" in child support since he and his wife stopped living together in the summer of 1990, and is in arrears by more than $45,000.

In my deeper search into the files, I came across a court document written by Giles against his wife that was so revolting, I felt sick to my stomach.

What's more, he also put some of the damaging and disgusting things he said in the document on flyers, which he threatened to distribute door-to-door to his children's neighbours, and which he actually delivered to her school colleagues to read.

He also threatened to call the media.

The document would be so damaging to the children that I actually wept as I read it. I felt revolted that I ever shook this man's hand and I told him so yesterday.

Justice Hutchinson also commented on this deplorable document in his Feb. 18, 1993 Reasons for Judgement.

"There can be no clearer example of a basic character flaw wherein Mr. Giles' sole interest was directed towards himself, a narcissism which blinded him to the real needs of his young child ..." wrote Hutchinson.

"Such a concentrated, dedicated and directed exhibition of puerile self-pity and self-interest appeared to drive Mr. Giles to win, at all costs, in order to vindicate himself in his own eyes regardless of the grave harm done to others, including his child ..."

The judgment also quotes two separate reports by respected psychologists Dr. Wendy Froberg and Dr. Larry S. Fong who described Eric Giles as "a controlling and defensive individual" with "an apparent 'need to win' in any battle in which they are engaged."

Ultimately, I agree with Clayton. He has been victimized as a result of his parents' acrimonious divorce but it wasn't by the courts and it wasn't by his mother.

Like an onion, this story has made me cry. I am truly sorry for my part in this charade which has been orchestrated by Eric Giles.

I promise to do better in the future.


Licia Corbella, editor of the Calgary Sun, can be reached at 403-250-4129 or by e-mail at licia.corbella@cal.sunpub.com. Her columns appear Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.
Letters to the editor should be sent to callet@sunpub.com.

Copyright © 2001, Canoe Limited Partnership.