Friday, January 16, 2009

Access to kids a dad's price for raising alarm

Judge says alerting officials turned girls against him
Joey Thompson
The Province

A Vancouver Island dad has lost custody of his two young girls, as well as had his time with them severely curtailed, after he blew the whistle on his ex-wife's illegal use of a kitchen spatula to punish the grade schoolers.
Provincial Court Judge Bruce Macfarlane awarded sole custody to the mom last month-- tossing out the couple's interim joint-custody order -- on the grounds the kids' feelings for their dad had soured after he told police and the B.C. Children's Ministry about the utensil spankings.
I have withheld the family's name to protect the privacy of the kids.
Macfarlane conceded that repeatedly beating the youngsters on the bum with a household "spank spatula" for several years, "was a serious matter and against the law."
"The use of an instrument to discipline a child is unacceptable under any circumstances," he said, echoing part of an earlier finding by the Supreme Court of Canada.
But he rejected the dad's assessment that the corporal punishment amounted to child abuse.
Instead, he scolded the 47-year-old for tattling to authorities rather than discussing his concerns with his ex -- a more diplomatic, rational approach, according to Macfarlane, who has since retired.
The mother later told officials that the spankings always ended with a talk on "how God forgave them and still loved them and that Jesus died for our sins, so all are forgiven."
The judge -- despite expressing serious doubts about the mom's credibility, given she initially denied physically punishing them -- concluded that thwacking the kids' buttocks with the long-handled, hard-rubber cooking implement had caused them no lingering harm.
What had damaged them, he said, was the relentless hostility between mom and dad, who the children admitted "hate each other's guts."
Interviewed by officers after the dad's disclosure 15 months ago, the girls said they didn't want to hang out with him any longer because of "the way he treats our family -- it sucks."
While conceding that dad and the kids had been getting along fine before the officials intervened, Macfarlane rejected the notion that the mom's reaction might have fostered the falling-out between the girls and their dad, a producer in the family-entertainment industry.
"The evidence falls short of establishing parental alienation," he said.
The judge said it wouldn't be a good idea to hand the girls over to their dad because of the bitterness they felt and the fact they hadn't visited him for a while.
"The court would be placing them in an unknown situation and environment," he stated.
"With [the mom], there is a known environment and the girls appear to be progressing at least academically better than average."
As for the dad, he'll have to wait until the kids and their counsellor agree to see him -- and his first three visits must be supervised.
"I was punished for bringing the matter to the proper authorities, and there's little I can do -- I don't have the money to appeal," he told me, after launching a lawsuit against the investigating officers for negligence for not taking further action against the mom.
© The Vancouver Province 2009

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