National Post

Page URL:

September 29, 2001

Former Grizzly loses final round in custody fight

B.C. Mom awarded son, 4: Judgment weighed morality, money, colour of skin

Mark Hume in Vancouver and Luiza Chwialkowska in Ottawa, National Post, , with files from Andy Ivens, The Province
National Post; The Province

Andy Clarke, Reuters
Van de Perre is all smiles yesterday in Vancouver with her four-year-old son, Elijah.

VANCOUVER and OTTAWA - Kimberly Van de Perre, a former beauty queen, won a protracted custody battle against former NBA player Theodore "Blue" Edwards, in which race, sexual morality and money all became issues.

In the end, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled 9-0 in favour of Ms. Van de Perre, granting her custody of her son, and against Mr. Edwards, who used to make $2-million a year playing for the now defunct Vancouver Grizzlies.

In an earlier appeal court hearing, Ms. Van de Perre admitted to having sex with several NBA players and she described herself as being "like the tour guide" for visiting athletes, helping them "meet cute chicks."

Court was told Mr. Edwards "leads a 'glamorous' lifestyle in which he frequently indulges in extra-marital sex."

Ms. Van de Perre, who is white, will take over custody of Elijah, 4, from Mr. Edwards, who is black and who lives in Charlotte, N.C., with his wife, Valerie, and their twin 11-year-old daughters.

"I'm extremely relieved ... I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders," Ms. Van de Perre said yesterday, shortly after learning of her Supreme Court victory. "It's been a real roller coaster ride."

Asked how she felt when she heard the judgment, she said: "... like a huge exhale almost. A huge feeling of relief."

In giving the little boy back to Ms. Van de Perre, the Supreme Court reversed an earlier ruling by the B.C. Court of Appeal, which concluded the child should be raised in a black family because of the colour of his skin.

Race is only one of many factors judges should consider on a "case-by-case" basis when weighing the best interests of children in custody disputes, the Supreme Court held.

"In this case there was absolutely no evidence adduced which indicates that race was an important consideration," wrote Justice Michel Bastarache.

Ms. Van de Perre said Elijah will get a more balanced racial view with her.

"He's going to be exposed to a lot of different races in Vancouver ... In North Carolina it was sort of black and white."

She said Mr. Edwards lives in a gated community where they are the only black family and in a country with more racial tension.

"I would never deny there is racism in Vancouver. It's everywhere. But how can racism really survive in a place like Vancouver, where there are so many races and such an amalgamation of people of different races and backgrounds and religious beliefs?"

The Supreme Court ruling was the third and final round of a custody battle that began in 1999 in B.C.'s family court. Ms. Van de Perre won the first judgment, but Mr. Edwards, supported throughout by his wife, challenged and won in the appeal division. In that case, the issue of race was raised for the first time, as were questions about the sexual morality of both Ms. Van de Perre and Mr. Edwards.

The Appeal Court weighed the issues of family stability and income, but also considered a new argument -- race.

Mrs. Edwards, who said she'd forgiven her husband's infidelities, told the court Ms. Van de Perre could not teach Elijah, "what it's going to be like to be black."

For Ms. Van de Perre, who said she has given up the nightclub scene since becoming a mother, the decision means "I get to spend a lot more time with my son."

After leaving the Vancouver Grizzlies, Mr. Edwards, 37, played professionally in Greece, but is not currently with a basketball team.

Copyright © 2001 National Post Online