Proud to be Canadian!
July 6, 2004 8:41 PM   Subscribe

Illegally imprison children for 13 years, make them do degrading things, deny them food to the point of degrading them further, force them as teenagers to wear diapers, tie them up, even give them mental problems! Get 9 months in a prison yourself. That's an expense rate of just about 17 : 1! Why not come to Canada and enjoy these exceedingly low rates today before they're gone?
posted by shepd (55 comments total)

 
They...will be eligible for day parole after serving one-third of their sentence and full parole after completing two-thirds of their sentence.
posted by trharlan at 8:45 PM on July 6, 2004


that's awful...they should put them in a mental hospital forever, or do to them what they did to those kids.
posted by amberglow at 8:50 PM on July 6, 2004


It causes one to despair. How did we get to a state where physically harming people is less punishable than selling contraband?
posted by five fresh fish at 8:54 PM on July 6, 2004


I'm writing a personal letter to Adrienne Clarkson asking her to appeal the decision. I figure she's capable of something like that; it's her job isn't it? I hope more of you join me.
posted by Evstar at 9:11 PM on July 6, 2004


Taking into consideration the woman's claim that she suffered physical, psychological and sexual abuse as a child, the judge said her actions reflected her troubled and unstable background.
So, once again, people are let off more or less scot-free because they had a hard childhood. Boo fucking hoo for her. Lots of people had bad childhoods and don't turn out to be monsters. When are we (as a world-wide society) going to stop letting people blame the most horrific actions on their pasts and start forcing people to face the consequences of their own actions as adults?
posted by dg at 9:15 PM on July 6, 2004


This was pretty much my life from age 2 to age 6. As you might expect, I don't talk to my parents much anymore.
posted by SPrintF at 9:20 PM on July 6, 2004


Yeah, this is awful, but outragefilter posts are lame.
posted by Space Coyote at 9:38 PM on July 6, 2004


Yeah I heard this on the radio today, pissed me off, they'll probably get to watch TV in prison and get treated a lot better than their kids did. Keep in mind though in the U.S. it must be legal for parents to imprison their kids, as it's actually a buisness.
posted by bobo123 at 9:39 PM on July 6, 2004


You've completely blown the lid off Canada with this scoop!!!
posted by xmutex at 9:40 PM on July 6, 2004


I often wonder, when decisions like this are handed...is the judge still fit for the position? Is the judge too old / senile / disconnected from society to understand how society wants a crime like this punished? (Could that, indeed, be the basis for an appeal..."completely fucking incompetent judge with poor moral judgement presided over the original case").

Concerns about the "past suffering" of the woman should have been more than countered, I would have thought, by the fact that she clearly knew what she was doing was wrong but continued to do it...for years.
posted by Jimbob at 9:45 PM on July 6, 2004


There will always be at least one person to call every judge in the world incompetent and not fit to preside over cases.
posted by Keyser Soze at 10:13 PM on July 6, 2004


There will always be at least one person to call every judge in the world incompetent and not fit to preside over cases.

Yes, but what if there's a million of us?
posted by Jimbob at 11:06 PM on July 6, 2004


Yeah, this is awful, but outragefilter posts are lame.

whatever. in canada, this is a story because we don't get our panties in a knot about a few joints or gay people having sex.
posted by sharpener at 11:22 PM on July 6, 2004


According to the U.S.A.F. though, Canadian lives are only worth $1400 a piece. I mean these people didn't kill anyone and they actually went to jail.
posted by Grimgrin at 11:46 PM on July 6, 2004


Well, it's a good thing they wern't selling large amounts of pot in america at the same time!
posted by delmoi at 11:46 PM on July 6, 2004


I'll try not to derail:

I read about this yesterday and was pretty disgusted. When the case itself was on the front of all the papers I was shocked at the conditions the kids were kept in and the fact that it took anyone so long to notice.

That said, dg, I thought your post lacked any understanding of how traumatic events affect an individual. The argument of "a lot of us have bad childhoods" is weak on so many levels.

Here's an excerpt from this excellent book. It offers the most succinct explanation of trauma I've come across:
By definition, a traumatic event, whether it be objectively tragic or not, opens in the mind a corridor to the apprehension of our essential helplessness and the possibility of death. A traumatic stressor is overwhelming not becuase it is colossal--for it may not be so to the observers--but because it has a certain meaning for the individual.

Imagine two skydivers. Skydiver A has been practicing her sport for many years. Skydiver B is jumping out of a plane for the first time. At the usual moment, Skydiver A pulls the release to open her parachute. The parachute doesn't open. She is bemused by this, because she is an experienced parachute-packer, and she thinks that her chute should have operated. She will have to recheck her work when she gets to the ground. But she knows that she has an emergency chute for just such mishaps. She waits for another thirty seconds, enjoying the free fall, and then activates her emergency parachute, which opens immediately.

Skydiver B, at the moment she has been taught to do so, tugs on the release to open her parachute. The parachute does not open. She cannot believe this is happening. She thinks she's about to die. She percieves herself plummeting helplessly through space, and begins to scream, although the air sluicing past her erases the sound. For about thirty seconds, as her life rushes before her eyes, she struggles to find her emergency chute. Finally, she activates the backup device, and it opens immediately.

For Skydiver A, another dive. For Skydiver B, a traumatic event, nightmares and intrusive memories to come, perhaps for years. For an onlooker, two more or less identical scenes. For the participants, two very different meanings.
posted by dobbs at 11:47 PM on July 6, 2004


The argument of "a lot of us have bad childhoods" is weak on so many levels.
Of course it is, given that it was far too general a statement in this situation. However and without disparaging the book you linked to, the situation you presented above could be viewed differently, in that perhaps Skydiver A is the sort of person who has the innate ability to think clearly under pressure and would have calmly analysed the situation before operating her reserve shute, even if this was her first jump, while Skydiver B could react in panic even after doing countless jumps and simulating what to do in the event of failure of her main shute over and over again. Again, two more or less identical scenes to casual observers, but with very different meanings to the participants. It may be that each person's view of the world leads them to see any given situation a little differently.

I was certainly not meaning that anyone who has had a traumatic childhood should just grow up and stop blaming everything on events of the past, because it is impossible to truly judge someone's actions on face value, without knowing at least something about their history. I do get sick and tired, however, of hearing all the time that people are not to blame for their actions and it seems that the (often) prevailing view is "Oh poor thing, she had such a traumatic childhood, no wonder she turned out bad. It's really not her fault" For a 16 year-old to turn to crime or other anti-social behaviour because of childhood trauma is one thing, but for a fully grown adult to do the same is, in my opinion, a different matter. There comes a time in every person's life where they have to take responsibility for their own actions, even if this means that they have to confront their past and do whatever has to be done to deal with their demons.

Many will think that that is an uncaring, harsh attitude. Well, tough. Life is tough and there is no excuse in cases like this. None whatsoever. She (and her husband) knew what she was doing was wrong. They deserve to be punished for their wrongdoing and they also deserve to be given help for the state of mind that caused them to act in this way. They do not deserve the degree of leniency they have been given because of how they had been treated in the past.
posted by dg at 12:17 AM on July 7, 2004


The couple adopted the brothers when they were aged 2 and 3 from the woman's sister, who later died of alcohol abuse.

Alarm bells should have rung immediately. How was the family allowed to come to such a pass? Where were the relevant authorities? The scandal here is the system breakdown.
posted by emf at 2:04 AM on July 7, 2004


But how many kids are effectively caged without any bars? Stuck in shitty childhoods with no way out. Plenty I'd say.

Having said that, look at the damage they've done:
"I hope to have a better future," he said. "I want to be a social worker."
posted by biffa at 2:18 AM on July 7, 2004


Aren't these crimes what bull whips were invented for?

9 months is a failure of the legal system.
posted by Trik at 3:24 AM on July 7, 2004


dobbs and dg, kudos for hauling it back.

Trik: The failure isn't in the length of the sentence; it's in the failure of the relevant local authority to appropriately supervise whether the adoption was proceeding well. Social workers, this is your job.

It is right that courts take into consideration factors beyond the defendant’s control which may have influenced his action; punishing the blameless is an ugly business and unfortunately it comes in shades of grey.

Here however it doesn't seem like the defendant is particularly blameless. The correlation between abuse as a child and abusers as parents puts down red flags for society as a whole. Where we fail to heed these warnings we must ourselves shoulder some degree of blame for events such as this. Attempting to foist off all of the blame upon the perpetrator ignores the contextual circumstances within which actions are undertaken and crimes committed,
posted by dmt at 4:20 AM on July 7, 2004


SPrintF: I'm sorry to hear that. I know it's hard to recover from shitty childhoods. I hope your as fully escaped from it as possible.
posted by dash_slot- at 5:29 AM on July 7, 2004


So, once again, people are let off more or less scot-free because they had a hard childhood. Boo fucking hoo for her. Lots of people had bad childhoods and don't turn out to be monsters. When are we (as a world-wide society) going to stop letting people blame the most horrific actions on their pasts and start forcing people to face the consequences of their own actions as adults?

This was my exact reaction too. People need to separate explanation from excuse. Their behaviour may be explained by their past trauma. However, it is not and must not be excused by it. Otherwise you have a society that gives carte blanche to victims (and almost all of use can find some form of victimhood to claim as our own in these psychologized times).

Just because you feel sorry for someone doesn't mean you let them off the hook.
posted by srboisvert at 5:54 AM on July 7, 2004


Won't someone please think of the children? [/obvious]
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:24 AM on July 7, 2004


The "This person is abusive because he/she is screwed up by a bad childhood" is actually a valid defense in some cases. Some people really are too fucked up to know right from wrong. But I don't think it applies here. This couple had two children of their own that they raised normally. They were certainly aware and together enough to know that they couldn't handle these two boys, and should have given them up.

The truly horrifying thing I heard this morning on the radio is that this is an average sentence for abuse. Evidently, strangers get more time for abusing children than family members would for the exact same act, unless the abuse is sexual, in which case family members get more time than strangers would.
posted by orange swan at 6:25 AM on July 7, 2004


Here's a news report on the StatsCan figures I referred to.
posted by orange swan at 7:06 AM on July 7, 2004


And here are some columns by the Globe's Margaret Wente and Christie Blatchford (one of Blatch's better efforts, fortunately) on the topic.
posted by orange swan at 7:09 AM on July 7, 2004


Some people really are too fucked up to know right from wrong.

Absolutely.

...however, that doesn't mean I want them walking around as free people. If they're so damaged they don't know right from wrong, well, I'm sorry but I want them locked away where they can't hurt anybody. Forever.
posted by aramaic at 7:14 AM on July 7, 2004


So, once again, people are let off more or less scot-free because they had a hard childhood.

There are thousands of people every year who are completely fucked to the wall because they had a hard childhood, so it's a push.

Seriously, this is a shockingly light sentence, but it is hardly representative of sentencing in either the US or Canada.

Stop drinking the fucking koolaid.
posted by jpoulos at 7:20 AM on July 7, 2004


"Many will think that that is an uncaring, harsh attitude. Well, tough. "

Well, dg, you know, the same could be said for childhood - life is tough. Who says children are entitled to good childhoods? Our culture is obsessed with preserving an 'innocenct childhood' which doesn't really exist outside the preserves of our western, wealthy, family-oriented society.

In most countries of the world, children are property. In many parts of the world, poor families sell their children into prostitution or slavery. In other parts of the world, parents marry their daughters off to men they've never met before. Parents all over the world put their children to work for them.

It is a special characteristic of our society that we place compassion for children on a high level. It is also part and parcel of this same compassion that we recognize that life is, indeed, quite tough for everyone, not just children, and that what happens to us as children can affect us for life. Otherwise, why would we try so hard to protect children?

You can't promote one and dismiss the other, they are two sides of the same coin. You can't talk about fucking up children for life while dismissing adults who were fucked up by their own childhoods. If you have compassion towards children, but not towards adults who had bad childhoods, then that's a perverse sort of compassion indeed.
posted by PigAlien at 7:42 AM on July 7, 2004


Some people really are too fucked up to know right from wrong.

Absolutely.

...however, that doesn't mean I want them walking around as free people. If they're so damaged they don't know right from wrong, well, I'm sorry but I want them locked away where they can't hurt anybody. Forever.


Oh, I agree! I only meant that this argument can be part of a fair defense and taken into consideration when determining a sentence and treatment, not that it should get them acquitted.
posted by orange swan at 7:47 AM on July 7, 2004


If you have compassion towards children, but not towards adults who had bad childhoods, then that's a perverse sort of compassion indeed.

Well, yes, but.... I do think one can have compassion for adults who had a nasty start in life while simultaeously expecting adults to concentrate their best efforts on being good adults instead of making excuses.
posted by orange swan at 7:53 AM on July 7, 2004


For instance, I had a friend who would use her childhood as her excuse for everything that she'd ever done wrong, yet when I urged her to get counselling, she'd say she didn't have a problem - her abusive boyfriend/disturbed mother/unfair society was her problem. Meanwhile every problem she had was the result of her own consistently bad judgment.

You can't have it both ways. You can't expect a free ride for your problems yet simultaneously refuse to do anything about the problem.
posted by orange swan at 7:57 AM on July 7, 2004


Seriously, this is a shockingly light sentence, but it is hardly representative of sentencing in either the US or Canada.

Then what's this bag of shit doing walking around free? Prevention of, and enforcement against child abusers in this country is a joke. And while agree with many people here that having a lousy childhood is not an excuse for criminal behavior, it'd be ludicrous to believe that there's no cause and effect going on.
posted by jonmc at 8:35 AM on July 7, 2004


It astounds me that people seem to think that children are made out of some sort of memory-metal that, once we become adults, bounces back to some kind of normality. The whole point of protecting children is that what happens to them follows them for life.

You don't suddenly turn 18 and someone hands you the coping skills for life. Coping skills are learned and developed. If you are given no coping skills as a child, it takes a long time to learn them. If you are given bad coping skills, it takes a long time to unlearn them and then a long time to learn new ones. If you are given insidious coping skills, you become a murderer and go to jail.

People keep repeating, "Oh sure, you had a bad childhood, but you're a grown-up now, you have to face facts and take responsibility." Well, DUH. The problem is, just because you're suddenly, officially an adult doesn't mean that God reaches down from the sky and hands you coping skills.

That is why background matters. The judge might have felt that these parents truly realized this and that after 9 months in jail that they would not repeat this behaviour. The judge might have felt that, with therapy, these folks might be taught the coping skills necessary to avoid this in the future. The judge might be wrong, the judge might be right.

We can't change the past. No amount of punishment will ever give these children their childhoods back. No amount of retribution or revenge will ever make these children as happy as they would have been had they had a good childhood. Sometimes, we need to let go of the past and move ahead. Continuing the cycle of violence and victimization is the wrong path to take.

Compassion matters.
posted by PigAlien at 8:46 AM on July 7, 2004


Why should compassion matter towards people that never showed it themselves, especially toward the children in their care where it was needed? Why should we feel for them? What have they done that would encourage any compassion? It seems they've done nothing to deserve compassion.
posted by amberglow at 8:55 AM on July 7, 2004


Amen, amberglow.

Compassion is wondeful in it's place PigAlien, but there's certain people and things too far gone to fix with good intentions.
posted by jonmc at 9:01 AM on July 7, 2004


The whole point of compassion is to feel it for those who can't feel it themselves. Otherwise, they probably wouldn't need it.
posted by PigAlien at 9:36 AM on July 7, 2004


The whole point of compassion is to feel it for those who can't feel it themselves.

There's a word for people unable to feel compassion or empathy. And if they can't feel it, then they can't respond to it either.
posted by jonmc at 9:42 AM on July 7, 2004


So, once again, people are let off more or less scot-free because they had a hard childhood.

Just think about what the children/victims of these people are going to be able to get away with!
posted by wendell at 9:44 AM on July 7, 2004


Whether someone can respond to compassion or not has no bearing on whether they deserve it.
posted by PigAlien at 9:44 AM on July 7, 2004


Whether someone can respond to compassion or not has no bearing on whether they deserve it.

It does when that compassion can put you or the general public in even greter danger, because the object of that compassion sees that mercy as a weakness to be exploited.
posted by jonmc at 9:49 AM on July 7, 2004


In other news, Karla Homolka is going to be released from prison this year, on the date of one of her victim's birthdays.

What a fucking stupid legal system we have.

I have a .22 solution to these sociopathic fuckups. Six hillion people on this planet... let's get rid of the sociopaths and invite someone from a third-world country to take their place.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:54 AM on July 7, 2004


Compassion is not the same as mercy. Compassion is not a weakness. Neither is mercy, in fact. Showing someone mercy does not mean letting down your guard or letting them off with no conditions or consequences. If you let someone walk away from a crime unpunished, you are showing neither mercy nor compassion.
posted by PigAlien at 9:55 AM on July 7, 2004


There's a word for people unable to feel compassion or empathy. And if they can't feel it, then they can't respond to it either.

The place for compassion here isn't the judgment of their guilt or the determination to put them in a place where they can't hurt others. It's in compassionate treatment given those constraints.

But: I've heard stories of SS officers who later felt real remorse for what they've done. You never know.
posted by weston at 9:56 AM on July 7, 2004


Compassion isn't earned. It's a feeling within a human, who may know nothing of another's history. However, this may just be semantics - we don't feel compasion for everyone, do we? So those we don't feel compassion for, we may rationalise it as 'they didn't earn it', whereas it may be some other reason that it isn't inspired within.

I suspect that we need to see something of the other within ourselves, in order to feel compassion. The more we see the other as possessing human qualities, the more likely we are to feel compassionate to them. Hence those on opposite sides of a conflict dehumanise the other side - all of them, but crucially, the fightters - in order to ensure that not a trace of compassion will prevent the death of enemies at each others hands.
posted by dash_slot- at 9:59 AM on July 7, 2004


As a Canadian, threads like this make me glad that most of you are not Canadian.
posted by abez at 10:21 AM on July 7, 2004


As a Canadian, snobs like you make me glad I'm an ex-Canadian.
posted by aramaic at 10:26 AM on July 7, 2004


"The failure isn't in the length of the sentence; it's in the failure of the relevant local authority to appropriately supervise whether the adoption was proceeding well. Social workers, this is your job."

The article states that these children were adopted from another family member. I'm not an expert, but I am pretty sure that these sort of adoption cases fall outside of the rules/regulations of non-familial adoption cases. But, I could be wrong - I'm just speculating.

This case sounds eerily familiar to the 1973 Ted Post film The Baby. Eerie for me as well, since Oshawa is my hometown.
posted by fizz-ed at 10:52 AM on July 7, 2004


The article states that these children were adopted from another family member. I'm not an expert, but I am pretty sure that these sort of adoption cases fall outside of the rules/regulations of non-familial adoption cases.

Perhaps the evaluation process was more cursory? When I was 12, my mother's half-sister's daughter was placed with us for a year on a foster basis. As I remember it, the evaluation of my family as a prospective foster home consisted of a social worker coming over to speak with my mother (I don't even remember my dad being around for it) and have a look at the house. And T. visited us for a week to see how she liked it.

However, my parents had been foster parents in the past - they raised three sisters from the ages of 7, 8, and 9 to adulthood, plus their own five children, so how much more proof would the Children's Aid need that they would be responsible foster parents.

Adoption is more hands off, as well. With foster care the child's well-being is regularly monitored by his or her social worker. With adoption the parents are left to do their thing.
I still can't believe no one caught on sooner, though.
posted by orange swan at 7:51 PM on July 7, 2004


Why should compassion matter towards people that never showed it themselves, especially toward the children in their care where it was needed?

Compassion is internal to the person who feels it. It is your own soul that is in danger if you do not feel it. All the compassion in the world will not save a damaged child, nor the person who damaged that child. It will, however, save you from being evil yourself.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:49 AM on July 8, 2004


Revenge != Justice

Screwed up people treated some kids in a very messed up way. But they were not sadists, they did not seek the boys in order to treat them that way. Where would the justice be in a harsh sentence? There is no "protect society" issue involved in this case.
posted by Goofyy at 3:55 AM on July 8, 2004


and people wonder why i only spent 2 years in social work after i got my degree.

i'd be in the compassion camp if these people hadn't raised their biological son properly, without any abuse... why is everyone conveniently overlooking this...? the facts of this case present only one scenario to me - their intent was to take out their frustrations their nephews, they used and abused those children specifically and purposely and for that they should have gotten a longer sentence.

i've phoned every pertinent gov't official plus the judge's office, and i'll be following up with a handwritten letter to each of them.
posted by t r a c y at 4:20 AM on July 8, 2004


sweet jesus, that's a great bit of mefi homepage work!

Tracy, could you send me the addresses and copies of your letters? I'll do the same (but I'm lazy and don't want to look up the addresses; I will rewrite what you wrote, though.)
posted by five fresh fish at 9:36 AM on July 8, 2004


People keep repeating, "Oh sure, you had a bad childhood, but you're a grown-up now, you have to face facts and take responsibility." Well, DUH. The problem is, just because you're suddenly, officially an adult doesn't mean that God reaches down from the sky and hands you coping skills.
No, of course not. But becoming an adult does mean that you have to take responsibility for your life. If that means taking responsibility for dealing with events in your past that make you prone to harming others, then that is part of being an adult. This is easier said than done, of course and often the very harm that was done as a child makes the person far less likely to seek help as an adult. t r a c e y, the fact that their children were selectively abused makes this whole thing far far worse and, in my opinion, completely negates the excuse that the abuse was a reaction to her own childhood trauma.

If you have compassion towards children, but not towards adults who had bad childhoods, then that's a perverse sort of compassion indeed.
See above.

Compassion is not the same as mercy. Compassion is not a weakness. Neither is mercy, in fact. Showing someone mercy does not mean letting down your guard or letting them off with no conditions or consequences. If you let someone walk away from a crime unpunished, you are showing neither mercy nor compassion.
Exactly. Feeling compassion towards someone who was abused as a child (which I do) does not mean accepting that that person is going to go on and abuse others without consequences.
posted by dg at 2:21 AM on July 9, 2004


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