NATIONAL

WHITE-PRIDE NON

Her kids remain in custody, but she's not giving up: 'this is war’

CHRIS SELLEY August 4 2008
NATIONAL

WHITE-PRIDE NON

Her kids remain in custody, but she's not giving up: 'this is war’

CHRIS SELLEY August 4 2008

WHITE-PRIDE NON

NATIONAL

Her kids remain in custody, but she's not giving up: 'this is war’

CHRIS SELLEY

One of the most contentious child-custody cases in recent memory began on a Tuesday morning in March, when a seven-year-old arrived at a suburban Winnipeg school with a swastika drawn on her arm—just as she had on Monday, when her teacher had scrubbed it off. Monday’s swastika was the girl’s handiwork, but her mother had redrawn it, in keeping, she says, with her distraught daughter’s wishes. She now describes it as “the stupidest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

The school famously notified Winnipeg Child and Family Services, which took the girl and her two-year-old brother into custody. Four months later, on CFS orders, they remain with their maternal grandmother; they see their mother just two hours a week, she claims. Since March, she has dumped her husband, branding him a “flamboyant bigot.” She says she’s retained the services of family lawyer Regan Thatcher, and she’s been presenting her beliefs as a kinder, gentler version of white nationalism, swapping the Nazi flag in her home for a banner reading “White pride worldwide,” according to a news report. Though she remains in regular contact with Canadian white-supremacist icon Paul Fromm and has received support from August Kreis, leader of the Aryan Nations, she insists white pride is “not about hating. It’s about having love for yourself, love for your race, pride within.”

Maclean’s discovered less guarded comments on race relations under the online handle “aryanprincessl488,” which the woman admits is hers (though she claims her ex-husband and another friend occasionally used it too). (“14/88” is shorthand for the “14 words” and “88 precepts” of the late David Lane, a member of a neo-Nazi terrorist group. 88 can also stand for HH—the eighth letter of the alphabet, repeated—or “heil Hitler.”) “If it were up to you,” aryanprincessl488 asked last August, “would you sacrifice yourself and your children to save our entire race? There would be a 100 per cent guarantee that all Jews would be destroyed.” A week later, returning to the discussion, the poster conceded, “I hate Jews, really I do, a lot.” Aryanprincessl488’s other contributions include musings on travelling back in time to “warn Hitler about the consequences of being allies with the Japs,” and, in May 2005, complaining that Winnipeg is “infested with Indians and other such inferiors.” But she insists the comments don’t reflect reality. “In a discussion forum, it’s a little different,” she says. “You’re online, you’re discussing a topic and you want the topic to go further.” Even off the Web, however, she’s not shy about her opinions. She doesn’t deny the Holocaust, for example, but she suggests only 271,368 Jews died in Hitler’s “so-called death camps,” and thinks “the real Holocaust happened in Dresden under Churchill’s thumb.”

But despite her odious beliefs, the case has

exposed a remarkably broad consensus that child services authorities should not seize children solely because of their parents’ political extremism. There is a “fundamental value, recognized in the Charter of Rights,” says Nick Bala, an expert on family law at Queen’s University, “that parents have a presumptive right to raise their children—and that children have a presumptive right to live with their parents.” Political beliefs alone should never infringe upon that right, he argues. Neither the “glorification” nor the “preaching” of hatred on their own are legitimate grounds for intervention, argues Noa Mendelson Aviv, director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s Freedom of Expression Project. She says such a policy would be an “inappropriate, offensive and dangerous” expansion of “state surveillance.” And while David Matas, senior legal counsel for B’nai Brith, has argued that indoctrination to racial hatred is a form of child abuse, it seems even Winnipeg CFS disagrees. The agency won’t discuss the case, but a spokesperson insists “a parent or guardian’s religious, political or other views do not determine if a child is in need of care.”

In fact, most family lawyers, law professors and child services professionals contacted by Maclean’s say while agencies sometimes overreach, they don’t intervene solely on political grounds. Thatcher could not be reached for comment, but a case file obtained by the Winnipeg Free Press mentions concerns about drug and alcohol use, “the parents’ behaviour and associates,” and allegations the girl had missed dozens of days of school—all disputed by her mother.

On Sept. 24, CFS will have to satisfy a judge at the family division of the Manitoba Court

of Queen’s Bench that the kids remain in need of protection, and that it has a reasonable plan to eventually get them back with their mother. Child custody orders frequently demand that parents address issues such as those CFS claimed to find in the home, and if parents refuse to comply, cases can drag on for years. But the mother denies any such problems existed. She wants the custody order tossed out and her kids returned, and while the judge could do that, Winnipeg lawyer Len Fishman says it’s rare to win a case simply on the grounds that child services didn’t meet the standard for intervention. She can appeal the decision, but she says she’s unsure how she’ll pay even her current legal bills. In any event, she seems to be in no mood for conciliation. “The government of my country has told me I am a bad mother for holding these beliefs,” she insists. “I will not deny them, I will not stand down. This is war.” M