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Do-Nothing Children's Lawyers

September 20, 2006 permalink

Here is another letter from Anne Marsden, showing the inaction of the appointed children's lawyers in the case of a Brantford family with three seized children, leading to their long-term involvement with the foster or adoptive care system.




The audit of two CAS of Brant, child protection matters with the first commencing as a Temporary Care Agreement December 5, 2002 and the second precipitated by a newborn apprehension from the hospital July 10, 2006 have identified concerns with relation to two childrens lawyers funded through public monies not respecting the Child and Family Services Act, Rules of Family Court and the Criminal Code of Canada.

December 5, 2002 two children who lived with and were supported by their natural parents were the subject of a temporary care agreement entered into by the mother without any consultation with the natural father. The eldest son was placed in the care of his grandmother and the youngest daughter was placed in foster care. It is the mothers position that she did not wish her daughter to go into foster care but felt threatened by the CAS worker, Donna Symes that if she did not place her in the care of CAS voluntarily her daughter would be apprehended and she would not be able to get her back. The temporary care agreement stipulated that both CAS and the natural mother would work towards return of the child to her home by February 4, 2003 and the mother genuinely believed this agreement would be honoured. The agreement was not honoured by CAS of Brant and a protection application was put before the court February 3, 2003 the day before the youngest daughter was to be returned to her home.

The father took the matter before the family court given his consent was required for any such agreement and demanded the return of his children into his care.

Mr. Vipond was appointed to represent the eldest son and Ms. Sandra Harris was appointed to represent the youngest daughter.

Neither of these counsel whose primary purpose is to represent the child before the court have addressed the issue of contravention of the Criminal Code with the removal of the child from a supervising parent without lawful justification. i.e. no consent for the voluntary arrangement from a parent who had the right and responsibility under law to consent or not consent to his child being voluntarily placed in foster care. Indeed our audit shows their actions supported the outside rule of law behaviour of the CAS not being addressed by the court and have lead to Ms. Harris in particular being paid as a childrens lawyer in the matter of the youngest daughter during the three and a half years this has been before the courts. (Next hearing October 16, 2006).

Mr. Vipond participated in an agreement that saw in December, 2003 the elder male child being placed in the joint custody of his adoptive father (the natural father of the daughter), the grandmother and the mother with his place of residence being with his grandmother. This arrangement is still in effect with no protection concerns being found after a CAS investigation and the file is closed on this matter. The mother has lived with the eldest son and grandmother since January, 2006 and shares accommodation costs etc.

During the three and a half years the youngest daughters matter has been before the court C38 03, the legislated time lines for child protection matters as set out in the Child and Family Services Act and the Family Court Rules have been ignored and there has been no attempt by the Childrens Lawyer in the matter, Ms. Sandra Harris, to bring the matter in line with the legislated time frames. This suggests that either Ms. Harris is not competent as she has no understanding of the rules associated with child protection matters that have come into being for the paramount objective of the best interests, protection and well-being of children or she is ignoring these rules. Either one of these situations would suggest that her role as a Childrens Lawyer in this matter should be immediately terminated in the best interests of the child.

There are several issues identified by the audit with regard to Ms. Harris ignoring lawyers consenting to matters only parties could consent to in this matter and her silence has lead to a child being in care and access denied to those she clearly loves for a much longer period of time, three and a half years as opposed to 0 to 120 days, than our legislation sets out as being permitted. Given that Ms. Harris has benefited financially from having the matter before the court for three and a half years as opposed to 0 - 120 days it is of great concern to those auditing this file and needs to be considered by the Childrens Lawyer in terms of terminating her involvement in this matter.

As a result of Ms. Harris and Mr. Viponds silence on the issues associated with the December 5, 2002 placement of the youngest daughter in foster care a baby was apprehended from the hospital C307 06 and Ms. Harris was appointed as the Childrens Lawyer. After our objection being placed before the Childrens Lawyer Ms. Clare Burns and the Queens Park Committee considering Bill 89 Ms. Harris was removed and Mr. Jim Higginson was appointed as OCL in this matter. Mr. Higginson has carried on in the same manner as Ms. Harris and ignored the rules of the Family Court and the Child and Family Services Act in terms of the legislated time lines for consideration of a Temporary Care and Custody Hearing. During the time in care the childs best interests and well-being have been compromised and there has been no effort by the Childrens lawyer to support the mother and father in stopping the actions that can reasonably be held to contravene a judges order and put this babys well being and safety at risk.

I will be pleased to support this report with audit documentation and answer any questions posed to me by anyone interested in protecting the best interests and well-being of the children involved. I have tried to involve the RCMP through the Deputy Chief of Brantford Police in these matters to no avail particularly as it relates to the question of abduction. Support from the Childrens Lawyer in this regard may well precipitate the necessary involvement of the correct police jurisdiction in this matter.

It is my recommendation that Ms. Harris involvement in this matter be immediately terminated and a new childrens lawyer be appointed in time to be brought up to speed for the next hearing of C38 03 scheduled for October 16, 2006. The new hearing is to set aside an endorsement that made the youngest daughter a crown ward with no access with the reasons for setting aside being that the consent relied upon by the court and a default order in terms of the mother were obtained outside child protection rule of law.

Respectfully submitted September 20, 2006 by:

Anne Marsden (Mrs.)
Audit Manager
The Auditors
The Canadian Family Watchdog
#308 - 1425 Ghent Avenue
Burlington, Ontario
L7S 1X5
Tel. 905-639-5684

Source: prefers to remain unnamed