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Kirkman Case Referred to Harper

April 16, 2010 permalink

The case of twelve-year-old Noah Kirkman, the Canadian boy held by Oregon child protectors, has reached the point where MPs are asking prime minister Stephen Harper to intervene. Below are an exchange in the Canadian Parliament on April 15, a Globe and Mail article and an internet opinion piece. According to Lisa Kirkman, "the judge on my case is retiring on May first, but he's staying on as the judge just for our case!"



Foreign Affairs

Hon. Dan McTeague (Pickering—Scarborough East, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, for two years, Noah Kirkman has been held in the United States by a county judge who refuses to send this 12-year-old boy back to his family here in Canada. Calgary Child Services has not declared Mr. Kirkman, Mrs. Kirkman or Noah's grandparents, for that matter, unfit to look after him. For two years, Noah has been bounced back and forth between several foster parents and schools, yet this outrageous judicial detention of a Canadian citizen continues. This case flies in the face of the Hague Convention on returning children to their countries of origin. Can the minister explain when he is prepared to act and how long this travesty will continue?

Mr. Deepak Obhrai (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, CPC): Mr. Speaker, consular officials abroad and in Ottawa have been providing consular assistance to the Kirkman family since October 15, 2008. This particular case is in front of the courts. Consular officials abroad and here in Ottawa have respected and will respect the court orders concerning the minor child. If ordered by the court, consular officials abroad and in Ottawa are ready to assist in the child's return to Canada.

Hon. Dan McTeague (Pickering—Scarborough East, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the problem is that the government has waited two years. Calgary Child Services is no longer in a position to determine what is in the best interest of young Noah. The young boy must immediately be returned to his family. Noah's family needs the government's help to put an end to this charade.

Why have the Conservative government and the hon. member been refusing for two years to help the family and bring young Noah back to Canada?

Mr. Deepak Obhrai (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, CPC): Mr. Speaker, it is very important to note that the child protection agency is responsible for the protection of minor children. Under international law, this is the court in the U.S.A. As the current matter is in front of the courts, we will abide by the court rules. We will continue abiding by the court rules and if ordered by the court, consular officials abroad and in Ottawa are ready to assist in the child's return to Canada.

Source: Hansard

Harper asked to intervene in bizarre international custody case

Calgary family has been fighting for nearly two years to bring home 12-year-old boy seized in Oregon

For nearly two years, 12-year-old Noah Kirkman has been shuffled through Oregon foster homes as his family in Calgary fights through the U.S. court system to bring the youngster back to Canada.

Now, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been asked to intervene in the bizarre international custody case, and federal Liberals are slamming Ottawa for not doing enough to protect the young Canadian citizen.

“I’m hoping that the Canadian government will step in at this point and just say, ‘Give us this child back. He’s Canadian and we can handle it thank you very much,’ ” said Lisa Kirkman, Noah’s mother.

The Kirkman family has been locked in Kafkaesque bureaucratic limbo since a misunderstanding ruined an idyllic summer vacation in small-town Oregon in 2008.

That’s when Noah was in Oakridge spending time with Ms. Kirkman’s husband, John Kirkman, who has raised the boy since he was a toddler and is the biological father of Noah’s younger sister, Mia. Mr. Kirkman is an American citizen, and he and his wife for a time lived in different cities.

One day, police in the U.S. stopped Noah, who was riding his bike without a helmet. The boy, who has severe attention deficit hyperactivity disorder but maintains an A average in school, had trouble answering questions. Officials looked into his background and found a social services file open in Canada (the result of his special needs assistance) and that he was in the U.S. without his mother, his legal guardian (her note permitting care by his stepfather wasn’t enough).

Noah was taken into custody to protect his welfare.

U.S. officials will not talk about the case, citing state and federal privacy rules, but Gene Evans, a spokesman with Oregon’s Department of Human Services, said American and Canadian governments are “continuing to work together to provide appropriate assistance to the Kirkman family.”

The battle for Noah has since been waged on two fronts: through Oregon’s Lane County Circuit Court, and in the U.S. federal court through a Hague Convention application that deals with child abductions in foreign countries. The latter requires by international law that governments hand over children to their place of usual residence to decide what’s in the youngsters’ best interests.

Last week, circuit court Judge Kip Leonard ruled that he might be open to sending the boy back to Canada when the school year ends, but there was no guarantee. There’s no date to hear the Hague application.

Tony Merchant, Ms. Kirkman’s Regina-based lawyer, is hoping for another audience at the circuit court level to sort things out.

“Just having a social service file in Canada doesn’t mean that you have a family problem or the child is in need of intervention and I don’t think they know that,” he said. “It’s pretty easy to see how the mistakes began. I can’t be so sympathetic about the failure of the judicial system to let the mistake come to an end. Some people have difficulty backing down off the hill.”

Calgary Conservative MP Rob Anders has been raising the issue with U.S. officials. He said he is willing to go down to pick Noah up, and this week he asked Mr. Harper to help.

“It’s a complicated case,” he said.

Federal Liberal consular affairs critic Dan McTeague said the government hasn’t done nearly enough to demand Noah’s return and warns this could erupt into a “serious diplomatic row” between Canada and the U.S.

“This is the most outrageous case I’ve ever confronted,” he said.

Ms. Kirkman, 35, has already jumped through hoops required by the U.S. courts – parenting classes, psychological testing and therapy – and even has Noah’s grandparents in Calgary ready to assume custody if she and her husband, who also now lives in Calgary, are deemed to be unfit.

Ms. Kirkman, a self-described “anti-prohibition activist” who writes for marijuana magazines for a living, was sentenced to community service in 2005 for growing medicinal pot for her husband, who has chronic fatigue syndrome. She and her supporters wonder whether that background is partly to blame for Noah’s situation.

She hasn’t seen her son since July, 2009, and the family is only permitted one 15-minute supervised call with Noah every two weeks. Mia, now 7, keeps saying “the government in U.S.A. took my brother.”

“She’s kind of stopped asking when Noah’s coming home because I don’t know what to tell her,” Ms. Kirkman said as her eyes welled with tears.

“Although I’ll never ever, ever stop fighting for Noah,” she added, “… I’m afraid I don’t think they have an intention of ever giving Noah back. I really don’t.”

Source: Globe and Mail

Lisa Kirkman with son Noah

Marijuana Activist Lisa Kirkman Fights to Get Her Son Back

Lisa Kirkman has spent the last two years trying to regain custody of her 12-year-old son, Noah, and have him returned to their home in Calgary, Canada. Her dilemma, according to the Calgary Sun, is “on the verge of becoming an international incident.”

The saga stems from a 2008 trip Noah made to his visit his stepfather in Oregon. Noah, who reportedly suffers from several mental health issues, was stopped by police for riding a bike without a helmet, and through a still unclear chain of events and red tape, ended up being placed in a series of American foster homes.

Here’s the kicker: The reason authorities have been hesitant to give Noah back to his mother is because of her history with marijuana activism and a 2003 conviction for growing medical marijuana without a permit.

“As a result,” the Calgary Sun reports, “the court has forced her to undergo psychiatric evaluations, and parenting tests. Most telling of all, the court says she must swear off drugs before Noah can come home.”

This Friday, a judge in Oregon will decide if Noah can go back to his mother. Canadian MP Rob Anders has said he is ready to travel down to the States and bring Noah home, depending on the ruling.

Oregon, which passed medical marijuana through a ballot measure in 1998, recognizes the rights of patients to use medical marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation. From all reports, Lisa Kirkman is a legal patient in Canada—her conviction is for growing her medicine without a permit. So why would they make her “swear off” a medicine recognized by both her native country and the state in which her son is being held? Furthermore, how can a judge deprive a mother custody of her son for being politically active on any issue? It wasn’t like she was exploiting her son by making him wear protest gear, which the last time I checked isn’t illegal in the U.S. either.

Lisa Kirkman is being interviewed on CNN later this afternoon. Hopefully they can bring her back Friday when she gets to experience a long overdue reunion with her son.

Source: Opposing Views

Addendum: Here is Lisa Kirkman interviewed on CNN, April 16, 2010 (mp4).