WINNIPEG – A Winnipeg father accused of teaching his children racist views has filed a constitutional challenge and claims his rights to freedom of expression and religion have been violated.
The father and his wife, who can't be named to protect the identity of their children, are set for a legal showdown with Child and Family Services over custody of their seized kids. A weeklong trial is slated to begin May 25, and the father is seeking an automatic ruling in their favour by citing numerous alleged violations under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
CFS seized the children last spring based on concerns about their emotional well-being after the girl showed up at her elementary school with hate propaganda inked on her body. Further investigation revealed the kids were being raised in what agency officials described as a "white supremacist" environment. The investigators also raised child protection concerns not related to the parents' beliefs.
The parents -- who are legally married but currently living apart from each other -- have denied any wrongdoing and the father recently filed an affidavit supporting his position.
"(The mother) and I were excellent parents to our biological child (the boy) and to (the girl), both before and after the children were apprehended. I believe that there is no legal basis for the children having been apprehended in the first place," the father wrote.
"State removal of a child from parental custody is a serious interference with the psychological integrity of the parent and infringes every parent's right to a fair hearing pursuant... to the charter," the man's lawyer wrote.
The nature of the parents' belief is expected to play a role both in the charter challenge and in the child protection trial.
In an interview with the Free Press last summer, the mother described herself as "white nationalist... but not a neo-Nazi skinhead." She admitted to postings made on two websites, which include a picture of the couple standing in front of a Nazi flag, with the man raising his arm in salute. She said postings attributed to her husband under a particular pseudonym were made by him. She claimed to have no memory of ones attributed to her under another pseudonym in which she speaks of posting "White Pride" posters, uses racial slurs to describe black people and makes derogatory comments about aboriginals.
"(The children) goose-step all the time. It really is adorable, it's more fun when we're in the mall and I do it, too," she wrote. Her husband claims he has "dedicated my entire life to being a skinhead" and vows to never change.
The father describes the swastika as "an ancient Nordic symbol for peace, life and new beginnings."
This case has generated national and international publicity because of the unique issues involved. The court hearing is expected to address the extent to which the beliefs as expressed by the parents are legally protected and whether educating their children in these beliefs entitled CFS to apprehend the children.
If the father is successful in establishing that his charter rights have been violated, this may prevent the court from hearing evidence about other child protection concerns CFS discovered during their investigation that are unrelated to the parents' racist beliefs.
CFS recently filed a motion to have the media banned from covering the upcoming trial, fearing further coverage of the case will be harmful to the children. Several media outlets, including the Free Press, objected to the proposed ban. A family court judge dismissed the CFS application earlier this week.