B.C. officials seize 13 children after claim that one molested
The Globe and Mail/1983-02-24
by IAN MULGREW and MARK BUDGEN
VANCOUVER - Thirteen children were taken from several families earlier this month by the B.C. Ministry of Human Resources because of allegations that one of them had been sexually molested.
The ministry has also accused the parents of being involved in a religious cult known as the Children of God or the Family of Love. The cult's code of conduct encourages incest and sex with youngsters.
The parents, many of whom are on welfare, insist they are not members of the cult and are fighting in court to have their children returned saying the ministry has made "a horrendous mistake."
The parents asked Human Resources Minister Grace McCarthy to intervene directly and correct the mistake and help them recover their children. The seized children range in age from 2 to 9 years.
Some of the children were apparently only visiting a home on Feb. 4, but they also were apprehended by the ministry staff and an RCMP officer who had come to seize children who lived there. Some of the parents were finally allowed to see their children during short visits this week.
The parents have been hindered from pleading for public support because the case now is before a Family Court judge, who has banned publication of details of the case.
The ban also prohibits The Globe and Mail from using their names or from publishing details that might identify those involved.
Two of the parents appeared with their faces blacked out on a Vancouver television station Tuesday night. The officials who seized their children "assured me that if we were visiting we would get our children back in a couple of hours," the father told reporters.
The two parents acknowledged on television that they once belonged to the Children of God sect but said that they now attend a traditional church. "There has been no abuse of my children either sexual or otherwise," the father said.
"The ministry has to be given some sympathy," David Hart, lawyer for some of the parents, said yesterday. "They (ministry staff) are totally paranoid because of mistakes they have made in the past and therefore they are playing it safe."
Mr. Hart said that rather than leave the children in the homes while the complaint was being investigated the ministry apprehended them. "I don't agree with it but I can sympathize."
The children were seized after complaints by a 24-year-old man embroiled in a custody battle over his 3-year-old son.
The father had made allegations of sexual abuse previously but a ministry investigation concluded that they were unfounded. Also, the father later alleged that he had discovered bruises on the boy's lower back, was also unproven.
Moreover, attempts on Feb. 2 by ministry investigators to corroborate the father's most recent complaints by talking to the child were inconclusive. Police consulted Crown lawyers and decided there was insufficient evidence at that time to proceed in criminal court.
Documents filed in the Supreme Court of B.C. in connection with the custody battle paint a grim picture of two parents trying desperately to maintain access to their child.
The father has charged that the mother and the people she lives and associates with belong to the Children of God or Family of Love. He said he fears that she planned to take his son - who had lived with his mother for half of each week - to India.
The two parents are unmarried but had lived together from June, 1978, until January, 1982, when they separated. From January until June, they saw one another, shared custody of the child and discussed reconciliation.
The 26-year-old mother denies that she has ever been involved with any cult or religious group known as the Children of God or the Family. The people she lives with and her friends also deny membership in any cult.
She is a member of a fundamentalist Protestant denomination that is strongly opposed to cults and has about 1,500 churches across North America.
The mother describes the father in court documents as a man who is given to drink, drugs and occasional violence and has never held a steady job as long as she has known him. She denies that she wants to take the child to India.
Her Presbyterian parents and her friends have also filed affidavits with the court supporting her arguments.
Although the father admits in court documents to drinking and to having used marijuana, he claims he was violent only once with his common-law wife.
He concedes that he has not had a steady job but says that he never has taken welfare but has nevertheless survived and supported his family. His family and friends have filed affidavits supporting his statements.
A Family Court hearing on the disposition of the 13 children is set for today.