A Winnipeg mother whose children were seized by authorities after she sent her daughter to school with a swastika on her arm says she regrets redrawing the Nazi symbol after a teacher scrubbed it off.
The mother, who considers herself a white nationalist, is fighting the child welfare system to regain custody of her daughter, 7, and son, 2. They were taken away after the girl was sent to school with the swastika drawn on her arm.
Four months ago, her daughter drew a swastika on her arm and went to school, where her teacher scrubbed it off. The mother helped her daughter draw it on her arm again, an act she regrets.
"It was one of the stupidest things I've done in my life but it's no reason to take my kids," the mother told CBC News.
Child and Family Services case workers were alerted and went to the family's apartment, where they found neo-Nazi symbols and flags, and took custody of her son. Her daughter was taken from school.
In court documents, social workers say they're worried the parents' conduct and associations might harm the emotional well-being of the children and put them at risk.
Although she proudly wears a silver necklace that includes a swastika and has "white pride" flags in her home, the mother, who can't be named to avoid identifying her children, denies she's a neo-Nazi or white supremacist.
"A black person has a right to say black power or black pride and yet they're turning around on us and saying we're racists and bigots and neo-Nazis because we say white pride. It's hypocrisy at its finest."
The mother has been fighting in court for four months to get back her children, who are living with extended family. The mother can see her children for two hours a week.
"It's been gut-wrenching. I didn't get off the couch for the first eight days; I just cried. I laid in their bed and held their stuffed animals and just cried. Last few nights, I've been sleeping in my daughter's bed."
She's outraged that the police and child welfare authorities could take her children away because of her beliefs.
"I'm willing to jump through their hoops," she said. "If they want me to deny my beliefs, I'll tell them that, but at the same time, I'm not a traitor to my politics, my beliefs. I just want my kids back."
Case sparks debate
The case has sparked questions about whether the state has the right to protect children from their parents' beliefs.
University of Winnipeg professor Helmut-Harry Loewen, an expert on hate groups, said while he disagrees with the ideology, he fears taking custody based on beliefs is draconian.
"If children are apprehended based on parents' political or religious beliefs, then one is opening a kind of slippery slope," he said.
But University of Manitoba professor Harvy Frankel, dean of the faculty of social work, said officials did the right thing.
"We should be reassured that this is child welfare practice as it should be."
If the two sides can't resolve their differences next week, they'll go to family court, likely in the fall.