Lisa Arlin spoke of her atrocity ...

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On 14 July 2015, the Supreme Court of B.C. handed down an unprecedented judgment J.P. v. British Columbia (Children and Family Development), 2015 BCSC 1216. This is the first case in Canadian legal history in which child protection workers are found liable for misfeasance in public office, breach of fiduciary duty and breach of the standard of care. Litigations between JP and the MCFD are summarized in JP Aftermath. Our commentary on the Plecas Review Part 1: Decision Time was published on 4 January 2016. On 31 August 2017, the Court of Appeal for B.C. set aside the orders in the civil proceeding against the Director/Province, set aside the finding that Mr. Strickland committed misfeasance in public office, that the Director and her delegates breached their fiduciary duty to the children, and that the Director and her delegates breached the standard of care in the decisions they made with respect to the children while they were in her care.
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Lisa Arlin's Child Removal in Surrey, B.C. (August 1996) Led To Parent Suicide

Arlin, Lisa
Lisa Arlin, her deceased partner, their baby
son and some teenage relatives

Information contained herein was provided by Lisa supported by court documents below and MCFD reports related to the removal of her children.

Lisa is a mother in British Columbia who lost all her three children to continuing custody orders sought by the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) over the course of ten years. Her oldest child would be almost 22 years old in 2010.

In her case, the legal proceedings of removal to adoption moved strikingly fast. Starting from a single intake report, the removal of the infant a day later, the subsequent presentation hearing, renewal and hearing of the Ministry’s Continuing Care Order (CCO) application, all occurring within about a year and a half, from February of 1997 to August of 1998.

In the succeeding 8 years from August 1998, Lisa made huge effort to regain access of her youngest son. It ended in November of 2006 with the BC Human Rights Tribunal judicial review.

Lisa’s common law husband committed suicide by overdosing anti-depression prescription drugs some time after the CCO application was finalized and all contact with the child was prohibited. “The dealings with the Ministry and prospect of never seeing his child drove him over the edge” said Lisa.

From the timeline below, we can see through the remarkable efforts Lisa has tried, without success, to gain access of her child and undo the continuing custody order. What stands here is a record of a parent who tried everything possible to be a parent to her biological child.

Perhaps someday, her children will come across their mother’s web page and see the efforts their mom made to be a parent. We pray that Lisa’s family members would find each other and reunite at some point.

Lisa was born in 1969, in the U.S., the daughter of two university psychology professors. What a remarkable pedigree. In Lisa’s psychologist assessment, she has an unhappy childhood of arguing parents who were a source unending conflicts. At some point, the family moved to Vancouver.

The following recounts the events of Lisa’s third and last child removed from her care in February of 1997. MCFD’s involvement with Lisa went as far back as 1987 when she was 18. Since that time her previous two children were adopted. Lisa’s second child most notably, was adopted by her consent to the maternal grandparents who convinced her to sign custody papers in order to “prevent the Ministry from apprehending” her son.

The MCFD removal of Lisa’s third son in February of 1997 due to an anonymous report of concern regarding the child’s welfare, which was not abuse related. Lisa contended the adoptive family wanted to keep her child as her own. It would appear that they eventually succeeded.

Readers should note the remarkable path and the fight that Lisa has demonstrated in her efforts to try to undo various orders and to retain her son and later, to try to maintain contact.

The Ministry contracted psychologist’s observation of Lisa’s care of her third son was to say that it was rare that he would see such a sensitive and skilful parent, as far as emotional interactions with her child were concerned. Compared to Lisa’s upbringing with her own well-to-do parents, this would appear to be an improvement on how she was parented as a child.

Arlin, Lisa
Lisa Arlin and her new born son in the hospital shortly before removal

The final assessment by the psychologist was that while Lisa presented as someone with low normal intelligence, she was by no means mentally deficient. The psychologist declared her clearly educable, who demonstrated sound parental attitudes. Lisa was able to promote attachment behaviours and appropriate development of the child, especially with assistance if provided by the Ministry, cites the psychologist.

The counseling Lisa received at the time produced no negative reports, which were instead favourable to her future as a parent. The final recommendation of the psychologist in his 10-page report was against any permanent planning and that the Ministry invest their energies in rehabilitating the mom. She estimated about a year would be required before Lisa could again become an independent parent. Wasn’t this parent worth the effort?

Subsequent Elizabeth Fry Society visitation reports contained complimentary comments on Lisa’s parenting. There were reports on twice weekly two-hour visits in Lisa’s home. Several visits were stated by the Society as being cancelled by Lisa, which she denies, saying she was not told of the dates and times of visits that were arranged. These “missed visits” significantly counted against her. There was a recommendation that the number of visits be reduced, and later they should be cancelled altogether.

The Ministry wanted to portray that Lisa did not care for her child because of her failure to attend visits. So-called missed visits appeared to be premeditated for the purpose of setting the stage for the Ministry to file for a Continuing Custody Order later. The judge in his reasons for decision cites that Lisa essentially missed her window of opportunity in providing the court with a sufficient change of circumstance evidence that would undo the CCO that was requested.

There is no commentary on the health of the child in the time with the mother, there is no medical history presented. The views of the child, even at age 6 at the time of the judgment are not represented anywhere.

The judge made a comment that “there was no relationship between Lisa and B.M. (her son) to maintain, and that the adoptive foster parents relationship was more important, and more positive.

At the point of writing Lisa was a determined advocate of reform and a strong believer of revoking child removal authority.

Lisa further asserts that she never wants to give up her children for adoption. Consent to the CCO was given under duress when MCFD threatened to cancel visitation if she refused. She claimed that such manipulation and intimidation are an abuse of power and coercion. Without much knowledge of what MCFD actually does under the pretext of “child protection” at that time, Lisa naively believed that she could reverse her consent by undertaking counseling to address the concerns of MCFD. She did not know that MCFD could adopt her children once she consents to the CCO. She emphasized that MCFD never told her the consequence of such consent before she made the fateful decision.

“I wonder how many more parents have to commit suicide before the government takes notice of the MCFD wrongful actions.” Lisa said in tears when she recalled her atrocity in September 2010. This reflects how oppressive and harmful state-sponsored child removal could be to a family.

Her case demonstrated the Ministry’s frequently used pattern from removing children to adopting them out as follows:

  • First target healthy white adoption-ready infant
  • The parent needs to have “history” with the Ministry.
  • If the parent is poor, with a low level social supports and representation, the process can be sped up. Court time can be obtained relatively quickly, and a CCO equally quickly granted.
  • Supervision reports and a psychologist assessment are done. If the parent’s history is sufficiently derogatory, these reports can be very positive, because the judge will still be able to successfully ignore them given the weight of derogatory history of the parent.
  • A foster parent, or proposed adoptive parent will always be presented in glowing terms. Financial arrangements are never part of court discussions.
  • An anonymous protection report must be filed with the Ministry noting concerns over a child’s well-being. This gets the Ministry’s foot in the door so they can open a file and “investigate.”
  • First, get a 3-month interim custody order by consent or by order of the court. Theoretically, the parent is not beyond hope at this stage.
  • Next, get a 6-month renewal. This is easier if the parent first agreed to the 3-months (indicating an agreement the child needed protection).
  • Don’t offer any intensive parenting courses. This is the first clue to the intent of filing a CCO.
  • File a CCO application. The Ministry has deemed the parent is beyond hope at this stage.
  • Continue accumulating derogatory information such as missed visits. Ignore phone calls from the parent and don’t initiate contact. This then looks like harassment of government officials busy tending other parents and children’s needs.
  • Don’t notify parents of visitation date and time, hence creating a perception that parents no longer care for the child. This reinforces a picture of past, and indicates the future danger to the child that it would be eventually abandoned.
  • Win the CCO application. Any visitation granted can later be safely terminated.
  • Voila! An adoption is complete and the biological parent has no recourse.
  • Appeals to BCSC and COA, Human Rights complaints and Judicial Reviews are pointless, especially if you are representing yourself.

Timeline of Major Legal Events:

(Section numbers mentioned herein are referred to the Child, Family and Community Service Act.)
1987 Son #1 born in the U.S., subsequently adopted out.
1992 Son #2 born, adopted by maternal grandparents (father’s side of the family).
1996 Son #3 born August, 1996
1997 Feb 1997 Son #3 anonymous report to the Ministry February 5 1997.
Feb-97 Report Feb5/97, removal Feb6/97 “emotionally harmed by parent’s conduct” and “parent unwilling or unable to care for the child…” on report to court dated February 13, 1997. S.35
Mar-97 Presentation Hearing, 3-month interim custody by consent s. 40(1)
Apr-97 Psychological Evaluation is favourable (10 pages)
Oct-97 Elizabeth Fry Society supervision reports are positive
1998 Feb2-98 Further 6-month interim custody granted s. 49(7) b
Apr-98 Elizabeth Fry Society supervision report recommends visitation termination due to too many absences.
Jun-98 Ministry’s CCO application was heard before Judge Lenaghan
Aug-21-98, Lisa grants consents to CCO with reasonable access. Lisa’s parent opposed daughter’s application for custody. S.56
Aug-98 Last exercised access by Lisa with son.
Sep-98-Mar-99 Counselling. Supporting letter by counselor Jan-99 filed for hearing.
Oct-98 Lisa applied to set aside CCO order
Nov-98 MCFD applied to change access permissions
1999 Jan-99 Case conference and interim application for access
Feb-99 Applications adjourned generally
Mar-99 Notice of Claim for damages against foster parents and social worker, withdrawn Mar18
Mar-99 MCFD Motion to terminate Lisa’s right of access to son, Lisa consents.
Oct-99 Lisa’s March 1999 claim dismissed
2000 Mar-00 Application to cancel custody order, based on change of circumstances, June23rd Judge Lenaghan grants permission to proceed s. 54(1)
June-00 Anger and Stress Management course commenced
2001 Jun-01 Psychologist report was produced
Sep-01 Certificate, Support for Young Families
Aug21-22, 25, Dec 19, 2001 – CCO trial. Judge John L. Lenaghan refused to retract CCO
2002 Aug6.02 – Decision rendered by Judge John L. Lenaghan F10675
2003 Sep26.03, Appeal of Mr. Justice McKinnon Aug6.02 order, 6 pages, S075581
2004 Apr14.04 Court of Appeal CA031581, appeal denied.
2006 Jul-06 BC Human Rights Tribunal case 4036 declined, no discrimination
Nov-06 BC Human Rights Tribunal S100573, Judicial Review (2hrs) refused

Achievements to improve job skills:

2002 August Fryworks - completion certificate
2003 April Elizabeth Fry Society certificate
April Pacific Community Resources, Employability Life Skills, Certificate
2005 June Elizabth Fry Certificate
November Training program completed
2010 September Certificate, Women’s Empowerment group



[This page was added on added on 14 October 2010, last revised on 14 May 2012.]