National Post

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Wednesday, December 22, 1999

Tyabji granted access to children over Christmas
Sex abuse allegations: Judge orders participants to be silent on case
Mark Hume
National Post

Nick Didlick, National Post
Judi Tyabji and her husband, Gordon Wilson, leave Vancouver courthouse yesterday.

VANCOUVER - Judi Tyabji was shaken and silent as she left a courtroom yesterday after a judge granted her access to her children over Christmas under severe restrictions, including an order that she not talk publicly about the custody case.

Allegations of wiretapping, sexual abuse and parental neglect were raised during the hearing that involves British Columbia's most famous political couple: Judiline Kim Tyabji, and her husband, Gordon Wilson, the Minister of Education and a candidate to become premier of British Columbia.

Mr. Wilson, who sat in the public gallery shaking his head while his wife wept quietly next to him, was also covered by the order of silence imposed by Patrick Dohm, the associate chief justice of British Columbia's Supreme Court, who was clearly distressed by the way the battle is being played out in public.

Ms. Tyabji, a former Liberal MLA, held a press conference last Sunday to attack her former husband over allegations that Mr. Wilson's son, Mathew, 21, had sexually abused her nine-year-old daughter.

She accused Kasimir Sandana, whom she divorced in 1994 to marry Mr. Wilson, of concocting the charges to undermine her husband's bid for the leadership of the NDP.

But Ian Maxwell, Mr. Sandana's lawyer, told Judge Dohm that his client had done everything in his power to protect the privacy of his children. He said Mr. Sandana, who won sole custody of his three children in the 1994 divorce, took his daughter to a doctor in July, after she returned from a visit to the Tyabji-Wilson home in Powell River.

Mr. Maxwell said the child had complained that Mathew Wilson had touched her "in a bad place."

Two doctors examined the child and then called both the RCMP and the Ministry of Human Resources to report concerns of possible sexual assault.

Mr. Maxwell said Mr. Sandana did not make the allegations public.

"He has kept the matter silent. He has kept it out of the press," he said.

He said Ms. Tyabji and Mr. Wilson had committed "a gross invasion of the children's privacy" by discussing the case in public.

Judge Dohm said he would grant Ms. Tyabji access to the children over Christmas, but he didn't want her or anyone else talking about the case.

"The parents ... will cease all discussion of the matter with anyone, including members of the media," he said. "These are private matters. They are not to be discussed publicly when you involve children of this age ... If there is any further discussion in the press or elsewhere, I'll know where to look."

Judge Dohm also said that while the children are visiting the Tyabji-Wilson household, Mathew Wilson is not allowed to sleep over, and he cannot be alone with the children. No one in the family is allowed to discuss the allegations of sexual assault with the children until police investigations are completed.

The battle over the children began when Ms. Tyabji, then a Liberal MLA, divorced Mr. Sandana, so that she could wed Mr. Wilson, who was then leader of the Liberal party. The two had met during a provincial election campaign that saw Mr. Wilson's party surge to opposition status.

When the affair was exposed after Mr. Wilson publicly denied that there was a romantic relationship, he was forced to quit the Liberal party. Together with Ms. Tyabji, he formed the Progressive Democratic Alliance, which he left this year to take a cabinet post with the NDP.

Mr. Sandana, who was awarded custody because the courts felt Ms. Tyabji was too preoccupied with her political career, raised the children for most of the year in Kelowna, B.C., but they have traditionally spent Christmas with the Tyabji-Wilson family.

Mr. Maxwell said the RCMP is investigating a series of allegations against Mathew Wilson.

He also said that Ms. Tyabji refused to believe her daughter, although two doctors and an RCMP officer had found her story of abuse credible.

"This incident was known to Mrs. Tyabji before the return of the children [to Mr. Sandana]," said Mr. Maxwell. "She said [to the girl]: 'Keep it secret.' "

Mr. Maxwell also touched briefly on allegations of wiretapping, which he said had been made against him by Ms. Tyabji.

He dismissed the charge as "quite frankly preposterous" and criticized Ms. Tyabji for making what he described as a a whole series of "trumped-up applications" to try and vary the custody orders.

Copyright Southam Inc.