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`The right decision' when CAS workers seized seven children, Judge says. (Children, Youth and Families).

ST. THOMAS -- Parents' rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms were not violated and the actions of child welfare workers were lawful says Ontario Superior Court Justice Eleanor Schnall in the highly publicized case between Family and Children's Services of St. Thomas and Elgin County and an Aylmer Couple.

Child protection worker Shelley West "made the right Decision, in law" when without a warrant she seized seven children of an Alymer couple who routinely disciplined their children with corporal punishment in October 2002.

Justice Schnall presented written support for her decision in October 2002 that all evidence was admissible in the case,

The children, who were then 6 to 14 years old, were seized in July 2001 from their home when they told West of beatings with a fly-swatter handle, a belt and an electric cord that sometimes left marks. The parents, who are members of the Alymer Church of God, believe they are following the church's interpretation of the Bible whereby children are to be disciplined by corporal punishment.

But Justice Schnall noted that "the fact that the parents believe that they strike their children out of love, and that they are obliged to do so because of the teachings of the Bible as interpreted by their Church, does not detract from the view that excessive force cannot be condoned, under any circumstances. Application of force to a child that leaves a mark is unacceptable."

Family and Children's Services Director Steve Bailey said that he was satisfied by two major aspects of the ruling, saying the Court found, after a thorough review of the events leading up to t he day of t he seizure and the seizure itself, "the actions of our staff in this case to be lawful, and their conduct to have been thorough, professional and entirely justifiable." Bailey added "this ruling clearly affirms that the right of children to be protected from abuse and neglect takes precedence over any other procedural rights for parents. The safety of children in Ontario comes first."

Lawyers for the parents claimed their constitutional rights were violated because West did not allow the mother, who speaks no English, the right to obtain legal advice and because their permission was not given before police videotaped interviews with the children.

Since late July 2001 the children are in the care of their parents but the family had been under an interim court order of supervision by Family and Children's Services. The parents have agreed not to use corporal punishment on their children. Further court dates have been set for the case. The family and the Church group are seeking to lift the supervision order.
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Title Annotation:children's aid society
Publication:Community Action
Geographic Code:1CONT
Date:Mar 17, 2003
Words:444
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