In the News Conference, the lawyers for the family gave the
rationale behind the appeal. It is
urgently needed to raise the standard by which Children's Aid can
intrude into a family and determine that children need to be
apprehended. The first step in the appeal is to raise $10,000
(TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS). These funds are required to obtain from
the court a typed transcript of the 18 days of verbal testimony
in the voir dire trial May-July 2002.
Let's do our part to show our appreciation to Michael Menear and
Valerie Wise (family's lawyers) for their commitment to defend
family rights in Ontario.
Judge Schnall agreed to a settlement deal reached prior to March 26, 2003 by the CAS and parentsí lawyers. In exchange for admitting the children were in need of "protection" the parents end the child protection case and get a new social worker who has a positive relationship with Church of God families. However, they must continue under a CAS supervision order for six months. This was not an admission that the parents abused their children. It was bargain to end the 20 plus months of public legal hassle this family has endured. The settlement was preferred as it prevented Judge Schnall from making another negative ruling on this child protection issue, which might say ANY physical discipline constitutes abuse.
We have transcribed about 20 minutes of the news conference. This is based on taped statements and Q&A with CAS, the parentsí lawyers and Pastor Hildebrandt.
STEVE BAILEY: The finding itself was that in the context of the child and family services act the children are in need of protection, and that they were physically harmed, and that there was future risk of physical harm without further intervention from the family and children services.
QUESTION: Repeat the question.
STEVE BAILEY: The finding was that the discipline imposed by the parents prior to 2001 was deemed to be inappropriate and deemed to be abusive and was not supported under the law.
QUESTION: The parents didnít agree to sign the fact that they would not discipline their children.
STEVE BAILEY: The judge has added the additional term that the parents not use physical discipline with their children, and it would be my understanding that the parents would be prepared to comply with that. However, they would not actively agree by signing off on that particular term, because it would represent a violation of their religious beliefs.
STEVE BAILEY: After six months the matter would have to be brought before the court for review. Itís a time limited review. So six months from now there will be a review before the court to determine how the last six months have gone and whether or not the children require any further protection. If there is no further protection required in the eyes of the court, then the matter is closed. If there are continuing concerns then the matter might be continued.
STEVE BAILEY: Weíve had an interim order for supervision for approximately 21 months. During that time our social worker has had regular access to the home to visit the children. You can appreciate that when you get a matter before the courts with national media attention that sometimes the adversarial nature of the relationship can be very much in evidence. Itís been up and down at times. I believe the family has worked very hard to cooperate and to abide by the terms of the law and I respect that and I think weíve tried to respect the familyís right to raise their children. So I think that itís been a reasonable relationship given the issues at hand.
STEVE BAILEY: Part of the terms and conditions is that there will be a new social worker, bearing in mind that the social worker is the same one that was involved in the beginning and of course she was the one that was involved in the original decision on July 4th which resulted in the children being apprehended. So we think that it might be productive at this point to turn the matter over to someone else and that appears to be agreed to by everyone.
QUESTION: Does this judgment today send a message to these people that they canít spank their children?
STEVE BAILEY: I believe the judgeís comments were fairly clear, that Canada is a place where we respect peopleís freedom of speech and religion. But thereís no such thing as absolute freedom, but that there must be some overarching abiding by the laws of the land. And in this instance itís becoming quite clear to me that the use of corporal that results in the children being harmed, i.e., the leaving of marks is not appropriate.
STEVE BAILEY: It doesnít matter. Any discipline which results in harming a child is deemed inappropriate.
QUESTION: Has the hand of the Children's Aid been strengthened.
STEVE BAILEY: I think that itís clarified for us that in cases where children are disciplined and are harmed, that the threshhold that we thought was operational was whether or not marks were in evidence as a result of the discipline, and I think thatís been reaffirmed in this case.
QUESTION: What did you think of the judgeís suggestion that lines of communication be established between church and CAS.
STEVE BAILEY: I think thatís a fair comment. There has been some media coverage in the last few months that since the latter part of 2002 we have developed a better understanding with this specific Church of God. You have reported that there is now a family in that community providing foster care for CAS, and thatís true. We have ongoing discussions with the church through pastor Hildebrandt and through this family. I believe that itís important that we continue to build bridges, not only with this church community, but with other church communities. We have made some sporadic efforts, but I think the judge is fair in her comments that we can always be doing more. We are certainly open to doing more and developing better dialog and understanding with any community in Elgin County.
Michael Menear (lawyer for father) and Valerie Wise (lawyer for mother)
MICHAEL MENEAR: I'm going to give a statement on our views and then weíll take questions arising out of the proceedings: First of all I want to make sure you understand this was NOT a child abuse case, it wasnít a spanking case, and it wasnít a religious rights case. It was a protection case. Thatís important to understand. Now protection involves the sate coming in to protect children from their own parents, and it involves the exercise of state authority and power and raises the issues such as what are the standards for the state can intervene, what is the protocol for the state to intervene, and those questions are still serious and those questions are ongoing. And those questions have been answered by Judge Schnall in her decision, but the case doesn't end there. There will be an appeal. The appeal will not deal so much with the findings that the children were in need or protection but rather with on the apprehension concerns which remain. We will have that - under the statute it has to start within 30 days and it is our intention to proceed in that particular manner.
QUESTION: What are the key elements of the apprehension that you feel provides a basis for an appeal?
VALERIE WISE: There is a difference between a child that may benefit from the agency intervening and educating or speaking with their parents and a child which needs to be apprehended. And that has really been the focus of our argument from the beginning. These children did not need to be apprehended. The parents maintain that they did not need to be apprehended. The legislation requires that the state act with the least intrusive means when it comes into a home and in this case they took the most extreme measure of apprehending the children. That is going to be the issue that will be the subject of the appeal.
QUESTION: The judge did say that excessive force was used used hereÖ
MICHAEL MENEAR: But that begs that question, in every case where excessive force may be used, does the state have the ability to come into your home, question your children, question the parents and then ultimately remove children because of that potential risk? Thatís still the question. In this particular case thereís no discernible standard thatís been set in terms of when the state can come in, except a very low standard which can be based on past parenting practices with no immediate or physical evidence of harm at the time of investigation.
QUESTION: The Judge said excessive force was used, so sheís setting some community standard and legal definintionÖ ?
MICHAEL MENEAR: Thereís another supreme court case that is coming up setting that standard explicitly [June 6, 2003 -ed] That was really collateral to the issue of protection in this particular case. This case wasnít to set that standard.
QUESTION: What about the judgeís concerns that a previous family had fled the jurisdiction, according to the judge with the collusion of the pastor, and that that fear made this apprehension a legal one?
MICHAEL MENEAR: Well, that was certainly one of factors that influenced Judge Schnall. Anyone sitting through the trial knows that thereís a host of other factors, and they all have to be balanced. And I think itís fair to say that we disagree with how the judge came down with that particular finding.
VALERIE WISE: The other issue is that when there evidence that comes up which was not operating on the mind of the social worker at the time of apprehension, certainly at the time of appeal, one of the arguments is going to be you canít take that into consideration when judging whether the evidence was there to apprehend these children. You know we never argued that the agency needed the consent of parents to interview the children, and I think that argument is attributed to us in the reasons. The argument was that you either need consent, OR a court order, OR circumstances justifying a warrantless apprehension. The concern that trancends this particular case is that right now an agency can walk into a home and the parents have no ability to prohibit them from questioning, interviewing, examining, and physcially examining, and in fact, if thereís any resistance, the court will take that to draw a negative inference from that and assume that the parents have something to hide and use that against them. So right now thereís just no protection for any parent.
QUESTION: In light of your clients signing off on the agreement, how are they feeling?
MICHAEL MENEAR: I think they do feel satisfaction that it is all over, and actually credit to council for the Childrenís Aid Society. Thereís been a lot of bridge building, without getting into the judgeís comments today. That process has already been in place between the CAS and pastor Hildebrandt, and we want to build on that.
But the important issue for the people of Ontario is what do you do when the Childrenís Aid worker comes knocking, and those questions remain. We need to establish standards. We need clarity in the law, so that everybody knows what the rules are. And that what this is about, and thatís what this will remain to be about to the next stage.
QUESTION: Do you agree with the Judgeís assessment that the church generally and the pastor in particular made circumstances of July 4th more traumatic for the children? (Jonathan Shur)
VALERIE WISE: No.
MICHAEL MENEAR: I donít either. I donít think anybody in the court roomÖ I donít think thatís the read that most of us had. It looked like a black and white decision on that by Judge Schnall, but I donít think the facts were that black and white. There was a lot of human interaction at that particular moment and Judge Schnallís rendition of the facts is not something that I feel comfortable with.
VALERIE WISE: And again the decision to apprehend was made on the evidence before there was any of the activity outside the home which Judge Schnall talks about in her reasons. So again I think thatís going to be a problem.
QUESTION: Why do you say that calling this a child abuse case is inaccurate if the Judge said leaving marks is unacceptable?
MICHAEL MENEAR: Because thatís not what the case is about. The case is about protection not whether there was child abuse per se. Thatís left for other courts in other circumstances to debate. But thatís not what this case is about. Nobody tried to hide the disciplinary practices if the family here. The question is what do you do in any event. And this case stands for the position that basically Ė when the Childrenís Aid comes they have carte blanche [Carte Blanche (French): A blank cheque signed by the giver, but left to be filled in by the receiver, with a sum of money drawn on the bank-account of the giver. Power to act at discretion in an affair placed under your charge. -ed] They donít need to go to a tribunal or justice of the peace. They can make the decision to conduct interviews and come into the home and make an apprehension as they did in this case Ö
VALERIE WISE: Ö in a non-emergency situation and I think thatís what the point here was when the social worker arrived, there was nothing to indicate that she didnít have time to go and discuss it with a judicial officer and get a warrant and come back if she thought there was a real and immediate concern. I just donít think the evidence bears that out in this case.
QUESTION: Whoís funding the cost of the appeal.
M: No Comment
Pastor Henry Hildebrandt, Church of God
PASTOR HILDEBRANDT: First of all I would like to say Iím not a lawyer. And after being involved in this case for so long I have no desire to be one. I am a pastor. I am a God-called pastor. Not a self-named pastor. Iím a God called pastor. Iím here because God wants me to be here. And I preach because God wants me to preach. And am glad for all these people who are here today. I am one of the most privileged pastors in this world. I have a people standing behind me. 100%. And I would like to personally invite Justice Schnall to come and visit our services and come and talk to our families. She will soon find out that I am not a dictator. Iím not a dictator. Iím a loving pastor with the help of the Lord. I am glad to tell you this morning that I am willing to stand on the Word of God. The Word of God is above everything. Wherever I can I will go along with the law of the land but whenever the laws of this land interfere with what the Bible teaches, you will find me on the Bibleís side, regardless of the consequences.
I want to say also that I have absolutely nothing against any one personally. I love the souls of everyone here, every one of them. But I donít like the actions.
And there is no one here that can prove me that I donít have a love for children. I love children. The way to bring up children in this world is to bring them up the Bible way. And if I want to give up the Bible Iíll give up my whole profession, I wonít claim to be a Christian, Iíll lay down my pastorship. But as long as I am a pastor, as long as I claim to be a Christian, the Word of God is number one, regardless of what happens.
I am also very glad to say that weíve worked hard from both sides. I am very glad to tell you this morning that the CAS has worked hard and has made efforts to contact me and I have made efforts to contact them. We have done what we should have done a long time ago. We have sat down together, we have discussed culture differences, we have discussed belief differences, whatever it is. And Iím glad for that. I will do my utmost I can, in the coming months and weeks and years, I will do my utmost I can that we can function as a church in this community. I will do what I can.
QUESTION: Will corporal punishment continue?
PASTOR HILDEBRANDT: Corporal punishment will continue as the Bible teaches it. As I stood 20 months ago, so I stand today with the help of the Lord. I can do not other. I can do no other so help me God, as Martin Luther said.
QUESTION: What do you say about corporal punishment causing harm when it leaves marks?
PASTOR HILDEBRANDT: We are not after leaving marks. Under no circumstances. Thatís never the goal of a parent at all. Under no circumstances. Our goal is to raise up our children the Bible way. And from time to time, as a last resort, corporal punishment is absolutely necessary. From time to time. If child doesnít commit anything that is worthy of corporal punishment, then the child will live without it. And we are not saying that every child has to have it. Just as from time to time as a last resort it will be necessary. And it will be done in a loving and kind way and it will not constitute abuse. None whatsoever.
We have a misunderstanding about what abuse is. There was never so much child abuse as there is in our time. And it is because of lack of Bible teaching. And our children, look around. Do they look abused my friends? These children are not abused. They are not abused. And we will keep on raising them the Bible way.
QUESTION: Do you agree with the CAS that youíve built bridges, thereís an agreed statement of fact. Whatís the difference between you and the CAS?
PASTOR HILDEBRANDT: The CAS doesnít endorse corporal punishment under any circumstances, not matter what. And I have just explained what the Bible teaches. So thatís why we differ. But I full heartedly believe that if a local agency loves their people and has care for family values which we are in danger of losing in this country. This judge who ruled in this case does not see family values. She harps on childrenís rights and in her ruling she says that childrenís rights always take precedence over parentsí rights. Thatís very alarming. But I believe that the local agency here is willing - has shown me - is willing to work with the church of God. And the church of God is willing to work with them. But the church of God is not willing to give up the Word of God.
QUESTION: When the social worker comes to the door to see how things are going, if they have spanked, they will admit it to the social worker?
PASTOR HILDEBRANDT: The Church of God people will under no circumstances lie. That is one thing Iím so glad for. We have established in this court through the past 20 months, we have established a good reputation that these folks never lie, not matter what. And we will continue that way. So if we have used corporal punishment, and the social worker comes to the door we will not lie about it. But we will be quick to add that we have not abused our children, and that we are strongly taking a stand against abuse. Abusing children is sin before God. We strongly teach against it. We are loving parents. [pause] Thank you.