Christian Couple that Lost Foster Children for Refusing to Lie about Easter Bunny Vindicated by Ontario Court

Children’s Aid Society of Hamilton put promoting the Easter Bunny ahead of preventing possible trauma to children when it removed the girls with only one day’s notice, a judge found

Justice Andrew Goodman of Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice did just that in his 62-page judgment released Tuesday. After a dispute over the Easter Bunny in 2016, the CAS removed the children, ended the Baars’ ability to foster other local children and, likely, interfered with the couple’s ability to foster children in Alberta, Goodman found. Goodman said the CAS’s actions were “capricious,” “not in the children’s best interests” and potentially reveal an “underlying animus” by the society and its workers.

 

An Ontario child welfare agency placed promoting belief in the Easter Bunny above preventing possible trauma when it removed two girls from a foster home because the Christian couple refused to lie about the bunny’s existence, an Ontario judge ruled.

In a stinging indictment of the actions of the Children’s Aid Society of Hamilton, a court judgment declared the CAS violated the foster parent’s right to freedom of religion and freedom of expression when the children were taken from their home and their fostering agreement terminated over the Easter Bunny dilemma.

Derek and Frances Baars, who lived in Hamilton at the time but have since moved to Edmonton, sued the Children’s Aid Society last year, saying a CAS worker insisted they proactively tell two girls in their care, aged three and four, the Easter Bunny was genuine, despite the couple’s belief that all lying is wrong.

The Baars sought no money, only a court declaration their rights were violated and that they not be blackballed from future fostering.

Justice Andrew Goodman of Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice did just that in his 62-page judgment released Tuesday.

After a dispute over the Easter Bunny in 2016, the CAS removed the children, ended the Baars’ ability to foster other local children and, likely, interfered with the couple’s ability to foster children in Alberta, Goodman found.

Goodman said the CAS’s actions were “capricious,” “not in the children’s best interests” and potentially reveal an “underlying animus” by the society and its workers.

The Baars are Christians and members of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America.

Francis Baar, the former foster mother, greeted the judgment with joy: “We are very thankful for it, that we’ve been vindicated. Our names have been cleared and we don’t have that hanging over us anymore,” she said in an interview.

The CAS said the children were not removed for the foster parents refusing to lie about the bunny but for refusing to support the birth mother’s wishes and failing to be respectful of cultural needs of the children.

“Nothing can be further from the truth,” Goodman wrote.

“It appears that the society would not be satisfied with anything other than confirmation from the Baars that they would lie about the Easter Bunny,” his judgment said.

Despite evidence showing the children were well cared for and the Baars provided a safe, secure and happy home, the CAS removed the children with only one day’s notice, an act, court heard in evidence from child experts, that was a “potentially traumatizing event.”

There are times when child welfare workers need to swoop in, such as physical or sexual abuse, Goodman wrote, but nuance over the Easter Bunny is not one of them.

“Given the disruption that these young children had already faced in their lives, there is no doubt that there was a need for stability, permanency and care in their lives. It is very clear from the evidence that the children were being cared for, that the Baars were providing them with stability and were turning their minds to the facets of care required for the children’s development and happiness.

“However, by taking the children away on such short notice, the Society took that away from them and contributed to the turmoil these children had already faced in their short lives. As (a CAS case worker) states in one of her case notes, ‘is it more important to have the Easter Bunny or permanency?’ The Society very clearly chose the Easter Bunny,” Goodman wrote.

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