Details of child’s death remain concealed

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It took days for the authorities to learn about the toddler’s death.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 04/04/2017 (2070 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It took days for the authorities to learn about the toddler’s death.

When it finally hit the courts, the judge initially ensured her name was kept from public view. And now even a guilty plea from her mother, whose prolonged assaults and neglect led to her murder, is not enough for the child’s name to be seen on the public record when justice is finally done.

A publication ban imposed by the court on Monday prevents the Free Press from naming the child, whose case the newspaper has been chronicling for nearly three years. Moreover, documents obtained by the Free Press show the extent to which the child-welfare system has gone to cloak the circumstances of her death, including recommendations emanating from the case.

It’s been nearly three years since the 21-month-old girl died after being returned to her parents by Child and Family Services.

Months of neglect and abuse led to the death of the girl on an Interlake First Nation, the toddler’s mother has admitted. The child’s mother pleaded guilty to second-degree murder Monday, admitting she repeatedly assaulted the little girl and didn’t properly feed her.

Neither the mother nor the child can be identified under a publication ban that was imposed Monday for reasons that remain unclear. Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Douglas Abra ordered the ban, which the Crown agreed with in court, without citing any section of the Criminal Code that would allow for such a ban.

The Free Press is complying with the court order even though it appears the court did not have jurisdiction to impose it.

Both parents were charged in their daughter’s death. The father’s criminal allegations of manslaughter and failing to provide the necessaries of life are to be tested at a jury trial scheduled to begin in February 2018.

The little girl died on July 17, 2014, after she was taken to hospital in Hodgson, where medical staff saw signs of “severe neglect and abuse,” Crown attorney Daniel Chaput told court. The child died of internal injuries caused by a beating she suffered earlier that day, court heard.

Malnutrition and “repeated and prolonged historical abuse” also contributed to the toddler’s death, Chaput said.

“What’s quite clear is that the accused failed to provide the necessaries of life to the victim, including nourishment and medical treatment over a prolonged period of time,” he said. “We’re not talking days; we’re not talking weeks. We’re talking months. And (the accused) knew that in so doing she was likely to cause the health of the victim to be endangered permanently.”

Justice Abra accepted the 38-year-old woman’s guilty plea.

“You admit that your mistreatment of your child resulted in your child’s death?” he asked her.

“Yes,” the mother said.

She is set to be sentenced on July 26, when Crown and defence lawyers are expected to agree on a recommended period of parole ineligibility. The minimum sentence for second-degree murder is life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 years.

Defence lawyer Mike Cook has requested a private assessment, known as a Gladue report, to determine how intergenerational trauma has affected the accused. The report will be used to inform the judge’s opinion before the accused receives her life sentence.

“My client tearfully, and remorsefully, entered a guilty plea today for causing the death of her young child. It was a very brave thing to do. She has had a very difficult life full of Gladue factors such as murder in her immediate family, being personally traumatized in residential school, familial sexual abuse, personal addictions, domestic violence and hopelessness,” Cook said in a statement to the Free Press Monday.

“She is committed to receiving help to recover from so many instances of personal tragedy and to be a much better mother to her older children in time,” he said.

Prior to her death, the little girl had spent time as a ward of Child and Family Services. The child was taken into foster care at birth after the parents had older children removed from their home. She was returned to live with her parents about a year before she died. RCMP laid criminal charges against the girl’s parents in January 2015 after a lengthy investigation.

In a recent response to a Free Press freedom of information request, the Families Department blacked out entire pages — save for the odd word — on six cabinet minister briefing notes prepared on the case over a two-year period.

The department cited confidentiality clauses under Manitoba law for the heavy redactions.

Two child-welfare agencies — Intertribal CFS and Peguis CFS — are named in the documents.

Blocked out from a January 2017 document were nine apparent recommendations for action emanating from the case.

The briefing notes provided background information on the case, its current status and cautionary notes to the minister not to reveal the name of the child.

They even reported on ‘media interest” in the child’s death. One briefing note blacked out 11 lines of text regarding media inquiries. It also noted that the department had received a freedom of information request about the case, and that the issuer of the request, dissatisfied with the response, had filed a complaint with the provincial Ombudsman.

katie.may@freepress.mb.ca

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Katie May

Katie May
Reporter

Katie May is a general-assignment reporter for the Free Press.

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

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