National Post

Wednesday, January 06, 1999

Cape Breton Children's Aid may sue over pamphlets
Posted on Internet: Parents publicly accuse agency of abducting their child

Richard Foot
National Post

The Children's Aid Society of Cape Breton is threatening to sue a Sydney, N.S., family, and even press criminal charges, after the husband and wife distributed pamphlets accusing the agency of abducting their daughter.

The society's lawyer sent the couple a letter on New Year's Eve, warning of legal action if the family continues distributing pamphlets in the city and posting them on the Internet.

George Khattar, a Sydney lawyer, says that what the family is alleging about the CAS is not only slanderous, it's also endangering the lives of child welfare workers. "Our people are concerned that they're becoming public targets," says Mr. Khattar.

"The picture of one of the executive directors was posted on the pamphlets and on the Internet, along with accusations that said he lied and abused the process, and stole the child."

But Lisa and Bernard McCarthy say they will continue their public campaign against the CAS."We hit a nerve," says Mrs. McCarthy. "Hundreds more pamphlets will be going out soon."

The couple are in the midst of a two-year feud with the agency. It began in 1996 when the agency removed Mrs. McCarthy's daughter, now four years old, from her care. The couple has spent the past year fighting for custody of the little girl in Nova Scotia courts. On Christmas Eve, they were called and told that the girl had been adopted by another family, says Mrs. McCarthy.

On Dec. 28, the McCarthys took to the streets of Sydney, armed with 250 homemade pamphlets titled "Children's Aid Society of Cape Breton Abducts Child."

They stuck the pamphlets on car windshields and handed them out to shoppers in search of bargains at Sydney's Mayflower Mall.

They also passed pamphlets out to employees at the Sydney courthouse and the city's government office buildings.

They posted their allegations on a handful of Internet pages, including, a Web site privately run by a woman in Saskatchewan, that publicizes problems individuals have encountered in dealing with governments.

Mrs. McCarthy says the CAS first began monitoring her several years ago, partly because of her problems with alcohol. CAS officials refuse to discuss her case publicly.

As Mrs. McCarthy tells it, the agency has overzealously pursued her family for years. Mrs. McCarthy had legal custody of her daughter when she and her husband, a U.S. citizen, lived in Florida in 1996.

Mrs. McCarthy alleges that Canadian officials took the girl that year, claiming the toddler had been abused by Mr. McCarthy. The McCarthys allege that the CAS later admitted the child had never been abused by her parents. The child was flown back to Sydney and placed in foster care.

Since that time the McCarthys have returned to Cape Breton, where today they have custody of their second, younger child.

"We went through two court hearings in the past year fighting this," says Mrs. McCarthy.

"We've filed complaints with the RCMP, with Cape Breton police. We've written complaints to Nova Scotia Community Services in Halifax."

The McCarthys are also trying to sue the CAS, for the wrongful removal of their daughter.

"We love our daughter very much, and we're good parents," Mrs. McCarthy says. "The only thing we can do now is to let the public know what's going on."

Mr. Khattar says he isn't sure how easily he can fight what the public reads on the Internet. But he's sure a local court would stop the distribution of pamphlets in Sydney.

And if he can convince the police that those pamphlets pose a danger to CAS employees, then "we will be looking at whether what these people have done is criminal."

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