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Monday, December 20, 1999

Molestation complaint targets B.C. minister's son
'I trust Mathew': Tyabji: Police investigating unproven allegations of abuse: affidavit
Michael Smyth and Elena Cherney
The Province and National Post

Bayne Stanley, Maclean's
Judi Tyabji Wilson says she trusts Gordon Wilson's son, Mathew. She says she believes her former husband brought forward an abuse complaint against the 23-year-old to stop her regaining custody of her children.

Gerry Kahrmann, the Province
Kim Sandana, the former husband of Judi Tyabji Wilson, has custody of the couple's three children.

Mathew Wilson
Judi Tyabji Wilson, wife of Gordon Wilson, the B.C. Education Minister and NDP leadership candidate, has been denied a Christmas visit with her three children after her former husband alleged that Mr. Wilson's son molested one of the children.

Mathew Wilson, 23, denies the accusation that he touched his stepsister between the legs, and Ms. Tyabji Wilson said yesterday that she believes him.

She accused Kim Sandana, her former husband, of using an "imaginary" incident to prevent her from winning back custody of her children, which she lost in 1994.

"Of course I trust Mathew," she said. "There's no evidence there was a sexual touch ... There may have been a touch when everyone was camping out [at the Tyabji Wilson house in Powell River] when they were asleep in the living room together. [The child] said his hand went between her legs."

But while Ms. Tyabji Wilson does not believe her child is lying about the alleged December, 1998, incident, she thinks the girl may have become confused after being quizzed by relatives, a doctor and a counsellor. "[The child] says he did touch her, sort of," said Ms. Tyabji Wilson.

Ms. Tyabji Wilson said she questioned both Mathew Wilson and her own child carefully, and concluded there was nothing sexual in the way her stepson touched the child and that she would not hesitate to leave him alone with the children again.

"Mathew says it was an imaginary incident," she said. "If there was anything of concern, authorities would have investigated."

Mathew Wilson, a University of Victoria undergraduate and researcher for a consulting firm, said he has not been contacted by the police. He said he called the RCMP himself to inquire about the investigation and was told he would be contacted if the investigation went forward. His stepmother said that neither she nor her husband has been contacted by police.

Mr. Sandana, a Kelowna grocery clerk, won custody of the children because Ms. Tyabji Wilson, then an MLA and part of B.C.'s most high-profile political couple, was found to be too busy to care for her children.

Mr. Sandana said he went to police last summer when one of the children complained of abuse. He then swore out an affidavit in B.C. Supreme Court stating that police are investigating two separate unproven allegations of abuse by Mathew Wilson.

The court cancelled Ms. Tyabji Wilson's Christmas access to the children, aged 12, nine and seven. Her lawyer will try to have that ruling overturned on Tuesday and to have Mr. Sandana cited for contempt of court for attempting to frustrate his former wife's attempts to gain access to the children.

Mr. Sandana was not deterred by his former wife's decision to go to court. "They can protest their innocence all they like -- this is going to explode in their faces," he said.

He accused his former wife, a Powell River city councillor, of putting her own career goals and those of her husband ahead of her children's safety. "My job is to protect the kids first and foremost," Mr. Sandana said. "Those two [Ms. Tyabji Wilson and Mr. Wilson] are more concerned about their political careers. She is nutty."

Mr. Wilson said he's not worried the allegations against his son and the dispute between his wife and her former husband will hurt his leadership bid. The couple weathered harsh criticism in the early days of their relationship, which began when Ms. Tyabji Wilson was a Liberal MLA and Mr. Wilson was the Liberal leader and a married man.

"I'm more concerned about the welfare of these little kids over Christmas," Mr. Wilson said. "This is the most mean-spirited action their father could take."

Ms. Tyabji Wilson said she has seen her children only once since Mr. Sandana brought the abuse allegations to the police five months ago because she was worried that if she sought a court order, the allegations would become public. She visited with them briefly at a Christmas concert last week, she said.

"I was hoping it would just go away," she said.

Ms. Tyabji Wilson said she believes Mr. Sandana's allegations against Mathew Wilson were spurred by her eldest child's announcement last summer that he would prefer to live with his mother and Mr. Wilson.

Mr. Sandana, she said, seized on a casual comment one of her children made to a cousin about feeling uncomfortable getting dressed in front of Mathew Wilson, who has often looked after and dressed his young stepsiblings.

"It was brought to our attention that the child was uncomfortable getting dressed in front of Mathew," said Ms. Tyabji Wilson. "That's a perfectly normal developmental milestone."

But the comment about dressing in front of Mathew was repeated by the cousin to a sister of Ms. Tyabji Wilson whom she calls a "crisis junkie" addicted to daytime television chat shows.

"My sister spends her whole day watching Jenny Jones," said Ms. Tyabji Wilson. "I know all of the parties involved. If there's a tendency to exaggerate, it's by my former husband and my sister."

Ms. Tyabji Wilson said she and Mr. Wilson have been portrayed to the children and to health professionals treating the child who was allegedly abused as protectors of "some sort of criminal who's on the lam."

"This is tearing my kids up at Christmas."

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