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More Foot-Dragging by CCAS
October 25, 2005 permalink
Even judges find themselves powerless to get CAS to comply with the law. For an ordinary party, the judge can find them in contempt for refusing to supply documents, but that will not happen with CCAS. Comments follow this story.
Judge lights fire under lawyers in Jeffrey case
By CHRISTIE BLATCHFORD
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Stung by constant delays and legal wrangling, the trial judge in the Jeffrey Baldwin case yesterday gave prosecutors and lawyers for the Catholic Children's Aid Society of Toronto a week to get their respective houses in order.
In setting strict deadlines for the two sides to meet and even directing them to communicate with one another, Ontario Superior Court Judge David Watt noted that for all the complaining, the dispute "rarely condescends to specifics."
For weeks, prosecutors Bev Richards and Lorna Spencer have been telling the judge they haven't got all the agency documents they need, with CCAS lawyers Paul French and James Maloney claiming either that they have produced the requested files or that they don't know what precisely the prosecutors are seeking.
The CCAS is involved in the case because Jeffrey, who was five when he died a skeletal and wasted child, was in the legal custody of his grandparents, Elva Bottineau and Norman Kidman, with the blessing of the agency, which had failed to check its own files and thus failed to discover the two were each convicted child abusers.
Ms. Bottineau was convicted as a teenage mother in the 1970 death of her first child, a baby daughter. Mr. Kidman pleaded guilty eight years later to assaulting two of Ms. Bottineau's children by a previous relationship.
In the lawyers' ongoing disagreement, Judge Watt characterized it as a case of one side saying, "You have something" and the other replying, "No, we don't."
Indeed, the CCAS version of the dispute gained support yesterday when lawyers for Jeffrey's grandparents, who are accused of first-degree murder in his Nov. 30, 2002, starvation death, told the judge they have had no difficulty getting information from the agency.
As an example, lawyer Anil Kapoor, who represents Ms. Bottineau, told the judge that the defence "already had" what the prosecutor recently demanded the agency disclose. "We had it all," Mr. Kapoor said.
Since defence lawyers get all their disclosure from prosecutors, it must necessarily mean the prosecutors already had the information they wanted.
And, he said, if Ms. Richards finds she doesn't have files she needs from the CCAS, she should "go get a warrant and get it."
But Ms. Richards had an example of her own.
Citing affidavits from CCAS workers who reviewed the agency files and who appeared to quote from original, aged documents, Ms. Richards said prosecutors have been "told those documents are too old and don't exist."
How, she asked, can files the workers claim to have seen just two years ago no longer exist?
The dispute, however, appears to be at least partly rooted in poor communication between the CCAS lawyers and prosecutors, with Mr. French yesterday filing a document which shows many of his letters and calls have gone unanswered by Ms. Richards and Ms. Spencer, and which saw him all but begging the judge to intervene.
The trial of Ms. Bottineau and Mr. Kidman, respectively ages 54 and 53, began early last month before Judge Watt alone; usually, such trials proceed much more quickly than those held before a jury. But this one has been plagued by delays and now won't even resume until Monday.
At that time, lawyers for Jeffrey's three siblings, who were also in their grandparents' custody and living in the east-end Toronto house with them when the little boy died, will renew an application for a publication ban to formally protect the youngsters' identities.
Source: Globe and Mail
Commentary: Here are some comments by John Dunn on the Jeffrey Baldwin case:
When ever I hear a story about kids abused by family members while under CAS care, it always makes me think that the CAS gets into full gear to promote the story so that they can hold an inquiry, and then get recomendations from people who don't know better, on how to better protect children from family.
This type of hype must be monitored by people like us and we should not only complain about how the Society let it happen, but while complaining about it, we must also include how many cases of child abuse happen to kids while in foster homes and group homes.
We need to make it common knowlege to the public that group homes by law, are required to report to the Ministry any time a "Serious Occurance" happens in the home, within 24hrs.
A woman I know who worked in a group home in Ottawa was fired because she complained that they were restraining a child for the wrong reasons. As punishment rather than as safety precautions. The kids were being restrained for not having a shower, or doing their homework etc, or as the result of an argument with staff.
One boy was getting restrained up to five times a day! Imagine how many reports would have been sent to the Ministry on him alone!
So when we speak to officials about story's such as the case in the CCAS and others like it, we must always be sure to mention the fact that these cases which make the media are usually exceptional but that hundreds of cases of abuse are reported to the Ministry of Children and Youth Services only when proper procedure is followed, and that those reports, called "Serious Occurance Reports" can be obtained through freedom of information requests.
It would at least get people thinking and hearing about the issue and maybe even acting on it.
Thanks everyone... we are all doing great work here... :)
The Foster Care Council of Canada
Ontario Advisory Committee on Child and Youth Services