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Police Officers Forcibly Remove 4-year-old from Mother's Care by Order of Family Court

Eight Police Officers Forcibly Remove 4-year-old Neurodivergent Child from Mother's Care by Order of Family Court, Child Protection Services Fail to Attend

Family court failed to notify a mother of the police enforcement order made without notice on 30 November 2023. On 02 December 2023, eight police officers attended her Oshawa, Ontario home and apprehended her neurodivergent four-year-old child. The exchange took three hours and as observed in the short video released on 03 December 2023, the child was inconsolable and under extreme duress.


The parties in this case separated in August 2019 when the child was seven months old. The mother claimed domestic violence during her pregnancy. Both parties obtained legal counsel and an order was made in February 2020 by Justice Roswell for supervised access for the father at a supervised access center. Due to the pandemic, access stopped until October 2021 when the supervised access centers re-opened. The mother stated that during the pandemic, the father had no contact with herself or the child.

The child is neurodivergent and the mother states that there were significant support systems in place for the child over the years.

In April 2022, the father was granted unsupervised access by Justice Lack. The child began to make disclosures of incidents that occurred during the unsupervised access that raised concerns with the mother. In October 2022, the child sustained a head injury during an unsupervised access visit. Unsupervised access visits stopped briefly during the police investigation.

A Durham Children’s Aid Services (DCAS) investigation was conducted and concerns with the father were not verified, however, DCAS verified that the child was “at risk of being emotionally harmed due to post separation caregiver conflict and by undermining his time with his father”. DCAS did not interview the child during this investigation and had only one meeting during which they observed the mother and the child together.

Unsupervised access visits were reinstated in December 2022, and within days the child was returned to the Mother’s care and was unable to walk. Paramedics were called. The Paramedics report stated that the child reported “[Father] hurt my head” The report also stated that when they asked the child if they felt safe at dad’s house, the child stated “no”.

The mother states that the father did not show up to pick up the child for any further visits between the incident in December 2022 to September 2023. An application was made by the father with family court for sole custody and access in July 2023.

At a court appearance that followed in September 2023, Justice Finlayson of the Superior Court of Justice in Oshawa ruled a full reversal of custody and access to the father, and one supervised visit per week for the mother in an order made on 31 October 2023.

An appeal was filed in November 2023 by the mother, however, the leave to appeal was dismissed by the Superior Court of Justice, Divisional Court, Ontario.

On 30 Nov 2023, an order was made without notice to the mother by Justice Nicholson allowing police enforcement of the 31 October 2023 order by Justice Finlayson.

Child Protection Concerns

A review of the CAS Child Protection Standards calls into question the investigation process carried out by the DCAS agent as interviews with the child and the "non-abusing caregiver" were not completed.(1) Moreover, DCAS failed to attend the exchange that occurred on 02

December 2023.

Family court orders that inflict this level of trauma on a child raise concerns and questions about how Judges implement Rule 16 of the Divorce Act, the best interest of the child test. Specifically, in the case of this child, it is unclear how the child's “physical, emotional and psychological safety, security and well-being” was prioritized. (2)

Action for Change

A report released in April 2023 by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women and Girls, Reem Alsalem for the UN Human Rights Council, states "Protective mothers are placed in an invidious position, in which insisting on presenting evidence of domestic violence or child abuse may be seen as attempts to alienate children from the other parent, which could result in the loss of primary care or contact with their children." (3)

The report also outlines an empirical analysis of parental alienation cases in Canada conducted in 2018 "found that of 357 cases, 41.5 per cent involved assertions of domestic or child abuse, of which 76.8 per cent included alienation claims advanced by the alleged perpetrator." (3)

On 11 August 2023, Petition e-4517 was launched and received enough signatures by closure

on 11 November 2023 to be presented to the House. This petition calls for the enactment of

legislation to ban the use of parental alienation and associated reunification therapy as a legal tactic used against adult and child victims of domestic violence in family court. The Government has 45 days to depose a response to the House of Commons. (4)


(1) Ontario Child Protection Standards, 2016

(2) Divorce Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. 3 (2nd Supp.))

(3) A/HRC/53/36 “Custody, Violence against Women and Violence against Children”;

Report of the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women and Girls, its Causes and

Consequences, Reem Alsalem, April 2023

(4) Petition e-4517 House of Commons, August 2023

Media Release 05 Dec 2023 (English)
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