A woman convicted of killing her grandson could provide the inquest into the Toronto boy's case with valuable insights that could help prevent similar deaths in the future, her lawyer argued Tuesday.
Elva Bottineau is seeking standing at the coroner's inquest into the starvation death of five-year-old Jeffrey Baldwin, who died in her care 11 years ago.
A lawyer presenting her application says Bottineau's family ties to Jeffrey and her involvement in his death mean she has "relevant evidence" that could help the jury make its recommendations.
Bottineau is looking to testify on Jeffrey's transfer into her care and the support she received from the Catholic Children's Aid Society during that time, Erin McDermid said.
"She does not seek to absolve herself of responsibility somehow" or otherwise derail the proceedings, she said.
Lawyers for Jeffrey's surviving siblings and for the office of Ontario's advocate for children and youth raised the alarm last month when Bottineau first signalled her desire to take part in the inquest.
They laid out their concerns in detail Monday, saying Bottineau shouldn't be allowed to hijack a process meant to "speak for and honour Jeffrey."
Bottineau's role in the boy's death has been established during her criminal trial and cannot be revisited, Freya Kristjanson told the inquest.
"She is prohibited from contesting those facts...nor can she attempt to cast her conviction in a more favourable light," she said.
And while relatives of the deceased are often granted standing, the fact that Bottineau killed her grandson should deprive her of any right normally granted to grieving families, Kristjanson argued.
Bottineau and her partner Norman Kidman are serving life sentences for second-degree murder in the case.
The coroner is expected to rule on Bottineau's application Wednesday.
In order to be granted standing, a person must have "direct and substantial interest" in a particular inquest.
Should Bottineau be successful, her lawyer said she could attend in person as early as Wednesday, or participate by video link from the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, Ont., where she is being held.
However, she would likely represent herself, said McDermid, who was only acting on the convicted killer's behalf in the application.
That led some to question whether Bottineau — who has an IQ of 69, or borderline mental retardation — would be able to follow instructions barring her from broaching certain topics.
Some also criticized the timing of her application, saying the evidence on which Bottineau could have weighed in has already been presented, and any attempt to review it would only delay the inquest.
The remaining witnesses, meanwhile, will touch on issues of no "significant direct interest" to Bottineau, Kristjanson said.
But McDermid said her client has no intention of bringing back past witnesses. She also argued Bottineau's interest in the case should hinge on the evidence as a whole, not just what remains.
Jeffrey was so severely starved at the end of his life that he couldn't lift his own head.
When he died in November 2002, he was just 21 pounds — about as much as he weighed on his first birthday.