Can Children Be Taken from Parents Suspected of Being Racists?

Steve Lambert, Canadian Press, June 9, 2008

A case of two youngsters seized from a couple suspected of being racist has raised the question of how far parents can go in teaching their children what they think is right.

“I think it’s really a tough issue,” Harvey Frankel, a professor of social work at the University of Manitoba, said Monday.

“I’m not aware of the courts giving a whole lot of guidance here in (this) area of child welfare.”

A seven-year-old girl and a boy, 2, were recently taken by child welfare workers from a home in south Winnipeg after the girl showed up at school with “hate-related drawings on her body,” police Const. Blair Good said Monday. Good would not confirm a media report that quoted unnamed sources as saying the girl was sporting a swastika and a white supremacy slogan.

Manitoba Child and Family Services is before the courts looking to obtain permanent guardianship of the children. The move is based partly on “concerns that the parents’ conduct might endanger the emotional well-being of the children . . . and that the children may be at risk of harm due to the parents’ behaviour and associations,” according to an affidavit from a child welfare worker.

The affidavit also says “there were concerns regarding drug and alcohol use.”

A Crown lawyer is reviewing the case to see whether criminal charges are warranted.

The couple, who cannot be named under provincial law, were not reachable at their home Monday. They have not yet filed affidavits outlining their position.

Manitoba guidelines allow child welfare workers to investigate any situation where there is concern for the safety or well-being of a child, including cases involving “religious or political practices . . . if those practices could be harmful to the child,” said Nadine Delisle, communications co-ordinator for Family Services and Housing.

Whether a judge would permanently remove kids from parents with racist beliefs could be a different matter, according to Frankel.

“It’s tough for me to imagine parents who are preaching sort of a neo-Nazi philosophy to also be providing a safe, nurturing environment for their child. This is a philosophy that talks about hate, talks about much of the world being a dangerous place,” he said.

“At the same, time, I don’t think just on the face of it, you can say it’s an environment that requires you to remove the child. Kids grow up in all sorts of situations that you or I or someone may not agree with.”

A hearing is set for later this month that could determine who will care for the children.

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