A young girl's head was shaved, and her parents described themselves as a skinhead family, court was told on Day 2 of a child custody hearing in Winnipeg.
The case involves a girl, now eight years old, who went to school with white supremacist symbols drawn on her skin. Her mother and stepfather, who are accused of racist teachings and failing to provide adequate care for their children, began a court battle for their children this week.
The girl and her brother have been in the care of the government's Child and Family Services agency since March 2008, when the girl showed up in school with a swastika on her arm.
Her teacher scrubbed it off in the afternoon but the girl showed up again the next day with another one, along with other white supremacist symbols drawn on her body.
Neo-Nazi symbols and flags in family residence
Caseworkers were alerted and went to the family's apartment, where they found neo-Nazi symbols and flags, and took custody of the couple's two-year-old son. CFS officials picked up the daughter at her school.
The case has garnered international attention and sparked debate over how far parents can go to instill beliefs in their children — and how far the government should go to protect children from those beliefs.
On Monday, the social worker who initially interviewed the girl after she was taken into care testified the child was well versed in racist and hateful propaganda. None of the CFS workers can be identified in order to protect the identities of the children.
The girl spoke of this being a white man's world and provided graphic suggestions of how to kill people of colour, the worker testified.
Girl famous for lying: parents
On Tuesday, another social worker testified about her first meeting with the parents — about three weeks after the two children were apprehended.
They told the social worker their daughter often makes things up, and was famous for lying, the worker testified. The parents also said the girl had likely drawn some of the symbols on her body herself.
When the social worker asked why the girl was able to talk about certain things, like hurting people or killing people of colour, the stepfather said it was probably something she'd heard in a private conversation and was probably a joke, the hearing was told.
According to the social worker, the mother said she had no idea why her daughter would refer to them as skinheads.
But the social worker said extended family members later told her that the parents had shaved their heads, and the little girl's, and described themselves as a skinhead family.
Girl said stepdad brought in neo-Nazi views
Then she met the girl, who the social worker described as bright and articulate, even chatty. They met in the girl's new foster home, where the girl was eager to show off her room, and her brother's toys.
The girl told the social worker that her mother used to read her stories but had stopped when she met and married a new man, the social worker testified.
"She was not a nice mommy anymore," the social worker quoted the girl as saying.
The girl said she started missing school because her mom and stepdad didn't wake her up on time. She told the social worker that her stepfather made the rules in the house, that he was angry and would get drunk, and that he didn't make meals, or change her brother's diaper often enough.
The girl said she used to have non-white friends before her stepdad came along, but after he was in her life, the girl's mother told her, "If you have a friend who's not white, I won't be your mom anymore," the social worker testified.
Parents separated, each seeking sole custody
Testimony from child welfare officials and lawyers will continue through the week.
The hearing will adjourn but resume in June, when lawyers for the parents will make their arguments.
The parents no longer live together, and each has asked for custody of the children. The girl's mother is not living in Manitoba anymore and has not been in court. Her lawyer's request for an adjournment Monday morning was rejected.
She has said she can't afford to travel but will attempt to when the parents have an opportunity to make their case next month.
The stepfather is in court and has filed a constitutional challenge, saying his right to freedom of expression, religion and association were violated when the children were apprehended.
The girl's biological father has also been attending the hearing, sitting in the gallery and watching the proceedings. He told CBC News he hopes the children's best interests won't be overlooked in the rhetoric of political ideology.