THE Appeal Court of British Columbia vindicated ‘bus dad’, Adrian Crook, over the Ministry of Children and Family Development in the judges’ unanimous decision posted Monday on-line, the Kids First Parent Association of Canada announced on Tuesday. (See: https://www.bccourts.ca/jdb-txt/ca/20/01/2020BCCA0192.htm)
Ever since spring 2017, when the ministry received a report that his five children were riding the bus together without an adult, Crook has opposed MCFD staff over their requirement that his children under age 10 be supervised at all times on transit and everywhere else.
The Court of Appeal confirmed that, subject to any valid child protection concerns, parents have a “right as a parent to decide whether [their] children could safely ride the bus on their own,” and that, given that the social workers did not consider the children to be in need of protection, they had no authority to require him to supervise his children on the bus or elsewhere.
The court determined that a social worker is “not authorized to order parents how to care for their children”. While “social workers carrying out this mandate may give advice and make recommendations to parents… any such recommendations are not binding” and parents are “entitled to disagree”.
Kids First Parent Association of Canada intervened in the case to challenge the BC Supreme Court’s very narrow interpretation of the liberty rights of parents under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Last November, the judge had rejected Crook’s claim that his right to liberty to raise his children according to his beliefs included his right to make transit related decisions.
The Appeal Court judges found that the judge’s determination regarding the appellant’s Charter rights “can serve no purpose as a precedent, as it was made on the incorrect assumption” that MCFD staff are legally permitted to require parents to do as they say even when child protection is not an issue.
Lawyer for Kids First, Geoffrey Trotter, said: “This has entirely undone the lower court’s narrow decision on the rights of parents under the Charter. Kids First will look to intervene in future cases in support of a broad interpretation of parental liberty rights.”
Kids First President, Helen Ward, said: “It is grossly unfair that one parent had to fight the government for over three years all the way to the Appeal Court to prove that bullying parents is illegal. Parents have rights. We are thankful that BC’s highest court has sent this much needed message to the government. This decision will help correct the power imbalance between the state and parents.”