“I am entirely satisfied that the allegations, although untested before a court, of sexual, physical and emotional harm, and deprivation of the rights of the children to an education are sufficiently grave and serious that intervention of a court is immediately warranted,” the judge said, adding that these children were at risk of suffering emotional or psychological harm.----Superior Court Justice Lynda Templeton. SOURCE
This post [started March 23, 2014] will be ongoing and will be written as it is written. It will consist of notes reflecting my random thoughts about the Lev Tahor case. It will end as it ends. I want peace and love and justice for all, even when that is what we often continue to work against.
Random Thoughts From My Disquiet.
The wheel is still in spin and with it my feelings about the Lev Tahor case. Despite the flurry around and within, I have not budged one inch from the conclusion which I shared when I first commented on this matter. My position remains that despite the pressure of public opinion, I cannot, and must not, at this point in time and with the evidence that has been made available to us, support any of the allegations which have been made against the Lev Tahor community.
Somehow, despite energetic and intrusive investigations, those allegations of abuse have just stubbornly refused to upgrade themselves to facts. To their credit, the news reporters, though their biases are revealed in other ways, have all been united in respecting that status, and have been careful to use "alleged" and "allegations of" when referring to the stories of abuses under investigation. Sometimes I have seen "documented allegations" used, but that is as far as the envelope has been pushed towards giving the allegations more authority.
I don't feel that I have to apologise for my sluggishness, for the fact that I am handicapped by the lack of evidence. Like the lame child in the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, my disability has prevented me from going the way of all the other fleet-footed children who danced gaily behind the Piper and were lost. Also like that child left behind, I cannot help but wonder about the destination from which I have thus far been excluded. Would my disquiet have been erased there?
"Think about the Children!"
I know that accusers, whatever their motivations, are free to make the wildest allegations without evidence and even anonymously. I understand the job of the authorities to act upon those allegations, to investigate and to ensure by finding, or not finding evidence that either the accused are guilty or not guilty. But are the authorities allowed to penalise without evidence? Is this how child protection works in this country? Are the accused guilty until proven innocent? And can children's protective services in Canada really bear the scrutiny now that it is in the spotlight? In the course of my reading I have come across dozens and dozens of articles about the nightmares that have been created by child protection services in this country, and how many innocent guardians and/or their entire families have been traumatised sometimes beyond repair.
Here are a few links if you can handle the disquiet:
Court Watch on Vimeo.
"The Rev Stephen Rudd from Hamilton, Ontario speaks about his experience with the CAS [Children' Aid Society] during his 25 years as a church Minister. He has seen countless horror stories of children and families being abused by Ontario's privately operated CAS agencies.
Rev Rudd believes that the government of Ontario must take the job of protecting children out of the hands of unaccountable CAS agencies and put this task under the direct control of government ministries who would be accountable."
Former director of the Children’s Aid Society of the Districts of Sudbury speaks out. Larry Killens. Letter to the Editor – January 2012. Ontario Commission for Accountability.
The Trailer for the deeply disturbing documentary -
Recently added [Via Yakov]: Children’s Aid horrors. By Michael Coren | The Interim | Thursday, April 24, 2014.
Fatal Care Series. The results of a six-month investigation by the Edmonton Journal and Calgary Herald into Alberta's child welfare fatalities. National Newspaper Awards for investigative reporting and news photography.
Barbara Kay: The problem with Children's Aid Societies. By Barbara Kay| National Post | February 27, 2013.
Alberta reveals hundreds more children died while receiving provincial care. Roundtable to review deaths in foster care. By Karen Kleiss. Edmonton Journal, January 9, 2014.
New minister Bhullar says inquiry into deaths of kids in government care not needed. By James Wood, Calgary Herald December 12, 2013
Families will be free to speak about children who have died in care: Alberta human services minister. By Karen Kleiss. Edmonton Journal, February 28, 2014.
The unlawful practice of social work in Ontario by unregulated CAS workers who provide services to the public under false pretence. Published by Vernon Beck, Child and Family Justice Advocate. Working paper – July 1, 2013.
UNDERSTANDING CHILDREN’S AID: MEANING AND PRACTICE IN ONTARIO CHILDREN’S AID SOCIETIES, 1893 - 1912 by Michael Reid.
A Thesis Submitted to the Department of Graduate Studies in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts Canadian Studies and Indigenous Studies, Trent UniversityJanuary 2009 © Copyright by Michael Reid, December 2008.
"There's A Kind of Hush."
I need to hear some discussion about the "documented allegations" and the contents of the unsealed transcripts released thus far and how they have advanced the case of the accusers. Who has asked aloud, apart from the lawyers for the media, why there was secrecy in the first place? These are the same lawyers who successfully petitioned to have some of the court transcripts unsealed.
I agree completely with Judge Sheindlin who said:
"....closed courtrooms protect two things – bad judges and bad lawyers.
“They also protect bad institutions that serve those courts, such as social services,” she continued. “They [cameras] should be there as the norm. If you have a specific exclusion, then you make it.”
When finally the transcripts were partially unsealed, we got to read about such pertinent revelations as the "odd silence" heard by the social workers visiting the abandoned Lev Tahor compound. Apparently that "odd silence" has also drowned out the voices that should be asking questions. Apart from the quietly or rabidly convinced, I imagine that the undecided concerned are silently thinking thoughts like: "Where there is smoke, there is fire." "What if it turns out that they are guilty?" "What do we really know about this religious community?" What if they really are a dangerous cult?" "For the sake of the children, we just have to back off, cross our fingers and let justice take its course."
The problem for me is that in this case I find those doubts less disturbing than the "odd silence" that floods my brain whenever I ask myself the question, "Upon whom does the burden of proof rest and have they convinced me beyond a reasonable doubt that they were justified in ordering the removal of people's children?"
Thundering also is the "odd silence" from the legal luminaries and the lack of their enlightening commentary on this case. If, for whatever reasons, they cannot risk being critical at this point, then can they at least reassure us that we should not let our hearts be troubled? Instead, the few who have commented, jumped nimbly on to musings about the terrain of the ongoing chase and how domestic and international law could be used by the hunted or hunter to find refuge or to enable capture. Another reverently espoused the need for secrecy in these cases. With what we know about the appalling actions of child protection services in Canada, I think that secrecy is the last thing that we need in this case. Where are the lawyers who can explain to us how it is that the law presides over the removal of children from their families BEFORE allegations of abuse have been proven?
I keep wanting to go back to the court order issued in Quebec on Wednesday 27 November 2013 and later, almost as if under pressure, upheld in Ontario. Upon what evidence was that original order to remove the children based? What was it exactly that made the Quebec welfare authorities describe the situation for some children as "serious". How do the rest of us make the leap from things like foot fungus to separation of children from their parents?
As I said before, couldn't all of this have been resolved with the children left in situ? Can anyone explain to those of us uninitiated in the ways of the law, how the situation "establishes a presumption of neglect against children."
Is anyone sharing my disquiet? Has anyone heard the wider and odder silence? Is there nothing here to be discussed about Canada's handling of this case? Are we looking away until there is a new distracting development in a far away place called Guatemala?
"Objects in the rearview mirror are closer than they appear."
Sharpened now by hindsight is the significance of the 2007 exodus of the fifteen Mennonite farming families from Quebec. What was the disquiet that compelled them to make the drastic decision to abandon their beautiful farms and the solid connections which they had made with the community? Which authority took care then to report with equally dramatic concern on the "odd silence" which their absence must have left upon the landscape of Roxton Falls, east of Montreal?
Like the Lev Tahor community, they also were not adhering strictly to the Quebec curriculum. Because of their religious beliefs, they also could not in good conscience teach their children about ideas anathema to them. It was also alleged that authorities had threatened to remove their children and put them in foster homes.
When they fled to Alexandria, Ontario, where the laws are more accepting, they left behind the homes and farms in which they had invested their labour, love and hopes. Even though the Mayor of Roxton Falls did not want to lose the Mennonites, even though he had praised their contribution to the community and had pleaded on their behalf to Education Minister Michelle Courchesne to allow their school to stay open, eventually they had no choice but to uproot and leave.
See here, here and here.
"We hoped to grow old here," a tearful Ron Goosen, one of the Mennonites, told CBC News on Thursday. "We have our burial plots and we hoped to be buried here, but it doesn't look that way."
To be continued...