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Judge orders Cape Breton one-year-old into permanent care

Scales of justice.
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'Cannot be entrusted with their child'

SYDNEY, N.S. —

A one-year-old Cape Breton girl has been permanently removed from the care of her parents after a judge ruled they pose substantial risk to harming the child.

“The court finds that it is not safe to put the respondents (the parents) in a child-caring role at this time. The evidence is clear, convincing and cogent that the respondents cannot be entrusted with their child,” ruled Supreme Court Justice Ken Haley.

The identity of the parents is prohibited from publication.

“The respondents do not see their behaviours as a problem in terms of providing safe child care. This lack of insight proves to the court, on balance of probabilities, that risk has not been adequately addressed. The child would be exposed to risk or harm in being returned to her parents,” said the judge, in a decision released this week.

The decision comes after the Department of Community Services applied for an order to place the child in permanent care.

A subsequent 13-day trial heard testimony from 31 witnesses including police and the parents.

The department was contacted shortly after the birth of the child by officials from the Cape Breton Regional Hospital after the mother left the hospital, with the baby, without the child being discharged.

The hearing was told there was concern that the child had a possible heart murmur and would have to be discharged by a physician. The parents were not initially told about the concern as nursing staff was not authorized to release such information until the child was first examined by a physician.

Police and officials from the department went to the home of the parents and were first greeted by a smell of marijuana outside the home. No one responded to door knocking.

A call was placed to the father’s cellphone and the male who answered said he was a friend and that the father was not at home.

Police officers removed the door hinges and entered the home and found the father hiding in a closet and the mother on a bed with the baby, explaining she didn’t hear anyone knocking at the door.

According to police and department staff, the apartment was full of smoke and both parents denied smoking marijuana. The father was arrested on an outstanding warrant and the child taken into care and taken to hospital. The child was later placed in a foster home in Port Hawkesbury and the parents were granted supervised visits. A medical examination cleared the child of concerns over a heart murmur.

The department identified three areas of concern for the parents: substance abuse, inadequate parenting skills and mental health issues for both along with anger management for the father.

As department officials attempted to work with the parents on the areas of concern, officials would later learn the couple had a significant history with child services officials in British Columbia in which five other children were taken into permanent care. Another child was also in the care of the father’s sister in Ontario.

When asked at the trial why she failed to disclose her previous history with child services, the mother said her past was her past and that she is a different person than she was, noting that she had a crack cocaine addiction at the time.

The father told the court that despite testimony from other witnesses, he is not aggressive but gets loud because people take him the wrong way. Trial testimony described the father as being prone to vulgar and profanity-laced rants and threatening outbursts.

“Witness after witness described contact with the respondents as disturbing and unsettling to the point that some feared for their personal safety,” said Haley.

The father said the smell of marijuana was from a neighbour and denied making any threats to department staff.

In his decision, Haley said it was unfortunate that the hospital did not explain about the heart murmur.

“In the circumstances, one can understand the respondents’ frustration but their decision to remove the child from the hospital against the medical advice cannot be condoned. It was irresponsible and not in the child’s best interest.”

Haley said the removal of the child from the hospital, against medical advice, opened the door to an investigation by the department.

“For the respondents to subsequently state, 'had they been aware,' they would have acted differently does not remove the initial concern about their conduct,” said Haley.

“With respect, the court fully understands their frustration and, no doubt, some decisions taken by the minister were a catalyst for the respondents’ aggressive outbursts toward the minister’s staff and others. Nonetheless, two wrongs do not make a right and the respondents' aggressive and inappropriate conduct opened the door further for the minister to investigate their fitness as parents.”

He said the court shared a concern expressed by others that the violent and aggressive outbursts by the couple were easily trigged when challenged by authority or placed in confrontational situations.

“This lack of self-control resulting in explosive anger could easily place an innocent child with no ability to self-protect at risk of harm,” said the judge, adding that throughout the process, the parents mispresented facts, withheld information, bullied professional staff and attempted to manipulate the process to their own benefit.

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