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Fall 1999: CAS plays hardball with family

Date: NOV-1999
Source: Dufferin VOCA
Keywords: misrepresentation, hostility, intimidation
Comment: IMPORTANT The full documentation and chronology of this case can be found here
Posted: MAR-08-03
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by Robert T McQuaid

On November 16, 1999, a legal action was started against our family by kidnapping our child - an apprehension to use the legal euphemism.

Before we knew anything about it, Tina Berryman, an employee of Molly Maid who had cleaned our home once, made a complaint. Our home near Orangeville Ontario is too large for my wife Linda and me to clean, so we have a maid service. Tina Berryman has no statement on record, only a paraphrase by a social worker. It appears the maid was appalled that the house needed cleaning when she arrived.

On Tuesday November 16, around 10 am, two people showed up at our door wearing smiles but clearly hostile, inviting themselves into our home. I refused them permission to enter. There were a few words exchanged, in which they identified themselves as representatives of Children's Aid with a complaint that there was a lock on our child's door. I ended the discussion by closing the door.

At 6:15 pm the same day, two policemen came with a woman from Children's Aid, showing a warrant authorizing them to apprehend our son, Ken aged 3 years. I respected the warrant, but declined to answer any substantive questions until talking to a lawyer. After my wife talked to the police for an hour, one of the policemen told me our child would be left with us if I removed a broken crib from Ken's room, otherwise Ken would be taken to a foster home. I retreated to my office to call a lawyer, but since the raid was after business hours, it took 15 minutes. I removed the crib and they took Ken anyway. I gave him a goodbye hug and he was gone. They did not really suspect abuse, because they did not examine Ken before taking him.

Linda got to visit Children's Aid on Wednesday and Thursday, on the second visit they even let her visit Ken for a while. She took a toy and clothing for Ken both times and recognized when Ken was having a bowel movement, requiring her to leave for a clean diaper. These facts were misrepresented in the CAS affidavits.

We got a lawyer, Evelyn Huber, to represent us and Friday morning we were informed that Children's Aid intended to apply for crown wardship, meaning that we would never see Ken again. I am a graduate of six foster homes and two boarding schools, and I know from personal experience just what a nightmare they are. Our care of Ken was heaven compared to that.

The next Monday at 10 am we went to the Orangeville Courthouse with our lawyer, and she worked out a consent agreement with Children's Aid, under which we could get Ken returned in nine days provided we complied with six listed conditions. As part of the consent, we were permitted to visit Ken for one hour each weekday.

At 3 pm I saw Ken for the first time since his abduction, Linda for the second time. We had to enter a building with a sign affixed to the window "Lesbian and Gay Positive Space", and in smaller type, "This is a place where human rights are respected, and where gays, lesbians, bisexuals, their friends and allies are welcomed and supported". Every door has a locking mechanism, many operated by remote control. Ken entered, and we were ushered to a closed room with a one-way mirror allowing observation from the adjacent room (it had open blinds on it), several surveillance cameras and concealed microphones. Ken had a sad-sack look, more depressed than any I had ever seen before. It took him a half-hour to regularly smile. When he realized that we were leaving, he cried intensely in a way that we had never seen before.

For six more consecutive weekdays we saw Ken under the same conditions. Later, Kim James filed thousands of words of affidavits using our visits as evidence against us. On Tuesday Ken's spirits were improved. Children's Aid had agreed Monday to let us take Ken for a haircut, but Kim James reneged. After Wednesday's visit two social workers, Kim James and Nina Little, met with us. Kim opened the questioning by asking "How do you feel?". That was quite a question from a kidnapper.

On Tuesday November 23, a reporter from the Toronto Sun, Jean Sonmor, visited us at home to get our side of the story, and on Wednesday she called Children's Aid, to get their side. Also on Wednesday, our lawyer called with a gripe that there was material on the internet about our case that Children's Aid considered libelous. Hard to understand, because most of what I had posted was merely verbatim copies of their documents. Still, I sent them an email offering to correct any libels (copy below). They did not respond, but the next day's treatment may be their response.

On Thursday we met Ken at 3:15 pm for an hour. During the session I took a too-loud toy cell phone from Ken, ignoring his 20 second tantrum, then he climbed contentedly onto my lap. Kim James and her supervisor Kim Evans came in after the visit and questioned us about the six conditions in our consent. We were in compliance with all, except that the day-care arrangements were under way and not yet completed. Then they asked questions unrelated to the consent, and after five minutes I suggested that Linda should stop giving answers outside the scope of the consent. Switching from friendliness to hostility, they said they would find us not in compliance with the consent and announced that they were going to proceed with crown wardship taking Ken from us permanently. When Ken cried today, they said, I did not comfort him. So we had accomplished nothing. Reviewing the agreement, the writing did not get us Ken back December first, that was merely their oral promise.

That evening I had to call a suicide prevention line to get help for my wife, and later drove her to the hospital emergency room for sedatives to make it through the night. To maintain family harmony, I had to end all efforts at exposure through the press or the internet.

Friday we saw Ken for another hour uneventfully. On Monday we saw Ken again, this time with Linda's brother Eric, who had flown in from Denver to lend his support during the family crisis. Ken attacked the Venetian blinds in the CAS office, and to rebut the contention of Children's Aid that Ken's destructiveness was our illusion, I did not interfere with him as I otherwise would have. In the CAS account of this event they fear a danger that could only occur if I sat by doing nothing while my son choked to death. Tuesday's meeting with Ken was in the same room with the still-broken blind, but otherwise uneventful.

On Wednesday, we went to the courthouse to get our son returned. CAS added a blizzard of new documents to the case, and demanded that he be kept in custody for several more months. This precluded an agreement, but no judge was available to hear the case, even after an all-day wait. However, the next afternoon, Thursday December 2, 1999, a judge did hear our case and ordered Ken returned to our custody immediately. Ken was freed at 4:30 pm. From Ken's speech, I inferred that he was fed waffles in captivity.

On December 7 we took Ken to see Dr Murphy, in compliance with the judge's conditions. I took along a large clear plastic garbage bag filled with a quarter cubic meter of toys that were in the home at the time of the raid, though I could have taken three such bags. We got there 20 minutes early, time that Ken spent cheerfully playing with toys. As soon as Dr Murphy entered the room, Ken became sullen and uncommunicative. Dr Murphy asked "Where's your belly-button?", and Ken just cried. It took him two minutes to respond by showing the doctor his stomach. Afterwards I inquired why Ken's attitude was so negative, but Dr Murphy insisted that his previous meeting with Ken had gone well.

The CAS affidavits up to this point made many allegations too broad to characterize as true or false, but eleven of the definite facts alleged by Kim James and eight of those by Trish Cox, even basics such as names and phone numbers, were false to my personal knowledge. Paulette Smith denied making the statements attributed to her in the affidavit supporting the warrant.

On January 19, 2000 a consent agreement was worked out at the courthouse ending the claim for crown wardship, but with a finding that Ken is in need of protection. I would have chosen to litigate before a judge in preference to the consent, but that would have been too damaging to the family without Linda's approval. This left us open to Children's Aid marching an army of social workers into our home (three visits a week on average) indefinitely. If we object, we become repeat offenders, enhancing their chances of getting Ken into an orphanag... oops safe home.

The attitude of CAS, and research into the law, convinced me to pursue political remedies. An exchange of letters starting with my elected representative in the provincial parliament, David Tilson, was a dead end. In January I found that anyone could become a member of Children's Aid by paying three dollars, and did so. Shortly thereafter, CAS sent us an intimidating letter, threatening to put us on the Child Abuse Register. From this, and other actions, I know CAS understands that they can not intimidate me, but can scare Linda. She was terrified, so I had to proceed slowly. As a member I requested a copy of the bylaws, finding that CAS has 17 directors, 12 elected by the members, and 5 appointed by local politicians. I addressed Mono Council on this subject on March 8, 2000. As a CAS member I requested a membership list, finding that before I joined, there were just 32 members. The bylaws give members the right to attend board of directors meetings, and on April 19, 2000 I did so. It was a chilling experience - all of the atrocity planners did so with unbroken smiles. There I learned that the annual general meeting of CAS was to be on June 20, 2000. The bylaws provided for a cutoff date of at least 30 days before the meeting; only members as of that day are eligible to vote in the election. In the month up to the cutoff date, still not using newspaper publicity, I signed up as many members as possible and on on May 18, 2000 I deposited papers with CAS nominating Lillian Brewer and me as candidates for director at the annual meeting. From this point on, CAS workers and David Thwaites lost their smiles in dealing with me. I sent out proxy solicitations to the 32 original members, and got to the meeting with three members loyal to our side, and 12 proxies. Before the meeting Linda suggested alerting the Orangeville Banner, breaking press silence.

The president of CAS and meeting chairman, Mark Van Horne, treated us like adversaries in a court proceeding. We found out that CAS had recruited 40 new members. According to Patti Lowe, a member of our team who helped count the votes, they were mostly social workers and policemen. The vote count appears in sequence below.

The day after the meeting, CAS filed a new set of court motions, apparently designed to keep us in court forever. They moved to compel us to attend an assessment at Chedoke-McMaster hospital, and scheduled a motion to be heard a week later extending supervision for another six months. The supporting affidavits suggested that all of Ken's development while growing up was the result of successful intervention by CAS. In this second round of litigation, they were much more brief and accurate, avoiding the petty factual errors of the first round.

At the oral hearing June 28, 2000 both David Thwaites and Evelyn Huber spent most of their time putting different spins on a letter from Dr Bakht. He did not agree with the paraphrase by Trish Cox. Trish Cox had an assistant, Jennifer Diamond, with her before the lunch break. Another lawyer, Gillian Shute, a friend of Evelyn Huber sat in on the hearing after the lunch break.

In his opinion, Judge Allen noted that there was resentment of CAS by McQuaid, then he went into the entry onto the Child Abuse Register as a justification for the resentment. He dismissed the CAS motion to compel the Chedoke-McMaster assessment.

On July 5, 2000 there was another hearing, again before Judge Allen. An assistant substituted for David Thwaites. The subject was the motion by CAS to extend the supervision by six months. The two lawyers explained that the business before the court was setting a date for the trial on the extension, probably in four months, with vive voce evidence. The dispute today was whether the supervision would remain in force during the period up to the trial. On his own initiative, Judge Allen requested the two parties to consent to trying the issue of the extension of supervision using the existing record. David Thwaites might have refused, but after a ten minute recess, both sides agreed. The lawyers commented on the record, CAS claiming the need for continued supervision to ensure implementation of Dr Bakht's recommendations. The judge again criticized CAS for putting us on the Child Abuse Register, and noted that the parents could take care of Kenneth without help from CAS. He dismissed the supervision order immediately. So we did not even have to wait until July 19 to be free.

I welcome calls from readers in Dufferin County Ontario who have had experience with CAS, or who are willing to help reform CAS. Call me, Robert T McQuaid, phone 519-942-0565, or email, or check the Dufferin VOCA website

IMPORTANT The full documentation and chronology of this case can be found here

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