Motherisk Commission Turns Deaf Ear to Mothers; Only Listens to Children’s Aid Societies

August 1, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Is the fix in? The Ontario commission appointed to review cases in which children were taken from parents based on hair strand testing done by the discredited Motherisk laboratory is doing its business without any input from parents or children affected by the lab’s decisions. The only entity assisting the commission is Children’s Aid Societies that improperly used the Motherisk lab in the first place. To three mothers and the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth, that looks inappropriate.

I’ve written about Motherisk before. It was the laboratory located in the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. It was routinely used over the years to test hair strands of pregnant or nursing mothers for drug or alcohol abuse. But there were problems with using the lab. Primarily, it was disclosed that Motherisk in fact had no one on staff who was a qualified forensic toxicologist. Unsurprisingly, the testing methods used were substandard and therefore unreliable.

Amazingly, this went on for years. In countless court hearings to determine whether a mother should lose her parental rights due to drug or alcohol abuse and have her child taken into care and then adopted, apparently not a single lawyer representing either the mother or the child thought to ask basic questions of Motherisk “experts.”

Meanwhile, Children’s Aid Societies went on happily using the unqualified employees of Motherisk in order to terminate mothers’ rights to their children and children’s rights to their mothers.

This was all done against a backdrop of previous wrongdoing by the very same lab. Forensic pathologist Charles Smith, an employee of Motherisk, performed autopsies in criminal cases that were so badly done that many convictions were brought into question. The lab was investigated and required to change its ways, but no one thought to follow up to see if it had.

Now there are potentially thousands of cases in which Motherisk and CAS collaborated to remove children from mothers based on improperly performed hair strand analysis. A class action lawsuit is underway by those mothers seeking to hold the Motherisk CEO and the lab itself civilly liable for the unconscionable wrong of terminating parental rights without cause.

But there’s more. An independent audit scathingly criticized Motherisk and CAS. Now the commission appointed to review cases in which Motherisk appears to have played a significant role in terminating parental rights is at work deciding in which cases parents should be referred to lawyers to attempt to get their children back.

That’s all well and good, but the commission, headed by former judge Judith Beaman, doesn’t want the input of the mothers (Toronto Star, 7/31/16).

Three mothers who claim that their children were removed from their care as a result of faulty drug and alcohol hair tests at Hospital for Sick Children’s Motherisk laboratory have gone to court to call out what they see as a lack of transparency at the commission set up to review their cases.

The very people the commission was established to help want to see everything the commission has seen when looking at their story.

The three argue in court documents that Commissioner Judith Beaman, a retired provincial court judge, and her staff have failed to allow them to participate in the reviews of their cases. They want the Divisional Court to order the commission to allow them to make submissions to the commissioner and to hold hearings in their cases.

Now, holding hearings in individual cases may be beyond Beaman’s mandate, but the notion that the commission won’t permit the mothers to give information or argue their point of view is outrageous. More outrageous is the fact that the commission is perfectly willing to hear from CAS.

The applications go on to say that Beaman has also failed to interpret her mandate correctly by “denying all rights of participation to all affected parties, except for the Children’s Aid Society, in conducting a review.”

Let us be clear. It is at the very least arguable that CAS worked hand-in-glove with Motherisk to terminate parental rights and take children into care. For years, countless people have argued that CAS inappropriately takes kids from capable and loving parents for the purpose of channeling them into adoption. CAS knew that Motherisk had previous problems with incompetent forensics that compromised the outcomes of cases. It knew or should have known that the forensic toxicology at Motherisk was performed by unqualified employees. And yet it continued to use Motherisk instead of alternative laboratories.

Finding another lab should have been easy enough. After all, the lead plaintiff in the civil suit against Motherisk, Yvonne Marchand, had done exactly that and gotten a report demonstrating that Motherisk’s expert witness was wrong about Marchand’s alleged alcohol abuse. But CAS never did so. All that can reasonably be seen as CAS using Motherisk to be its lab of choice because it delivered the expert opinions CAS wanted.

In other words, the commission that’s currently supposed to be reviewing cases for wrongdoing by Motherisk is refusing all input from the individual mothers involved and relying solely on CAS that preferred Motherisk in the first place. That seems like it’s tailor made for covering up wrongdoing and once again denying justice to wronged parents.

Then there’s the fact that the commission has no intention of reviewing every case in which Motherisk performed hair-strand toxicology.

The independent review that led to the creation of the commission recommended that the commission should not look at every case as it “would be a formidable, time-consuming, expensive, and impractical exercise.”

Well, we wouldn’t want to inconvenience anyone, now would we? After all, the only thing at issue is potentially thousands of children wrongly taken from their parents and forced into adoption. Of what importance is their welfare? Why should we care about parental rights?

Irwin Ellman, the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth sees it differently.

“For young people or former young people, it might not be perceived as a burden for someone to review their file,” Elman told the Star. “For young people who were or are in care, knowing the truth about what happened to them might in fact be a remedy.”

“The truth about what happened to them,” ah, now there’s a concept. It’s also a concept for all the mothers denied that most basic and important of human rights, the right to be a parent to your child. Too bad it’s not much of a concept for the commission. Or CAS. Or Motherisk.




National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization

National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.

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