Pair of lawsuits claim CFS didn’t act against abuse
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Two Indigenous brothers have filed separate lawsuits against the province and Child and Family Services, in which they claim they were abused and neglected decades ago.
Winnipeg lawyer Norman Rosenbaum of Merchant Law Group filed the suits on behalf of the siblings, who allege their placements after being seized by social workers caused lasting damage.
Both men seek unspecified damages, plus costs for medical care and counselling.
The province and CFS have yet to file statements of defence.
“It’s extremely difficult for survivors of abuse,” Rosenbaum told the Free Press on Thursday.
“Without commenting on the alleged assailants… when a child is in a vulnerable circumstance — that can be problematic, without care being taken by the placing agency.”
The most recent suit, filed April 19, alleges social workers left a Winnipeg man in a foster home where he was beaten, choked and abused verbally by the family tasked with his care.
The Métis and First Nations man lived with his mother and siblings in Camperville, on the west shore of Lake Winnipegosis, until he was taken into care by what was then called the Children’s Aid Society at six, according to the statement of claim. His brother, who filed a separate suit, was put in the child welfare system at the same time.
It claims he was apprehended without “reasonable and probable cause” because his mother had harboured him from abuse at Pine Creek day school, which closed in 1969.
The child welfare system then sent him to live with a non-Indigenous family in Minneapolis, who eventually adopted and renamed him, the claim says.
It’s alleged Manitoba CFS failed to adequately inspect the home. Court documents claim he was choked repeatedly, beaten with objects, punched and bloodied, and degraded with racist names after he was adopted.
According to the claim, when he spoke to a Manitoba social worker about the alleged abuse, they reportedly said: “You have to live with what you get.”
The lawsuit claims he suffered and continues to suffer because of the child welfare placement, including: depression, anxiety, panic attacks, a difficulty with relationships, and the loss of amenities of life. It is also claimed he struggles with suicidal ideation and has attempted suicide and other forms of self-harm.
In the lawsuit filed Feb. 3, the other brother, who now lives in Camperville, accused the province and CFS of breaching their duty of care by placing him into a group home in Emerson, where he says he was repeatedly physically and sexually abused.
The man, who was born in 1971 and grew up on the west shore of Lake Winnipegosis, entered the child welfare system at around five years old, along with his older brother.
He lived in various placements in the province, all operated by one group home director, according to the statement of claim.
While in care at the last group home in Emerson, where six-to-eight other children also lived, the home’s director beat him on “numerous occasions” with sticks, brooms and belts, leaving bruises, the statement of claim reads. It is also claimed the director would get another adult to beat the plaintiff for “alleged misbehaviour” — including beatings focused on his kidneys.
The plaintiff was allegedly plied with alcohol, cannabis and cigarettes, according to the statement of claim, with the group home director encouraging him to get drunk along with the other children. The group home operator also sexually assaulted the children in care, the lawsuit claims.
The sexual assaults included at least one act of anal intercourse which caused the child pain and bleeding, the claim says, as well as forced oral sex.
The statement of claim alleges no child welfare workers supervised or attended the group home, nor was the home operator “properly assessed for suitability.”
It’s also claims there was no proper monitoring, supervision or interviews of the children in the home, nor did CFS provide any supports, “let alone counselling,” which would reasonably have revealed the physical and sexual assaults.
The suit claims the plaintiff has suffered “severe and devastating injury, loss, pain” and damage, including mental health concerns and the loss of income.
Erik Pindera reports for the city desk, with a particular focus on crime and justice.