Kitchener-Waterloo

Mother of Kaden Young, swept into river, 'beyond distraught' by boy's death: Lawyer

Michelle Hanson and her lawyer, Marco Forte, will appear at a pretrial meeting with a judge and the Crown in Orangeville on Tuesday. Hanson's been charged with impaired driving causing death, dangerous driving causing death and criminal negligence causing death.

'She feels like her entire life has been crushed by this,' lawyer Marco Forte says

Kaden Young's mother Michelle Hanson is seen here at a vigil for her son, Kaden Young, after his body was found near Belwood Lake in April 2018. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

The mother of Kaden Young, the three-year-old boy swept down the Grand River in February 2018, "feels like her entire life has been crushed" by her son's death, her lawyer says.

Toronto-based lawyer Marco Forte says his client, Michelle Hanson, is doing her best to come to peace with what happened "but it's a struggle every day."

"She, like any mother, loved and cared for Kaden. He was her life," he said in an interview with CBC Kitchener-Waterloo.

"She's beyond distraught. She's crushed."

Hanson has been charged with impaired driving causing death, dangerous driving causing death and criminal negligence causing death.

Hanson was driving a minivan with her son, three-year-old Kaden, near Grand Valley west of Orangeville on Feb. 21, 2018 around 1 a.m. The Ontario Provincial Police allege Hanson went around a road closure sign, which had been put up because there was water over the roadway due to flooding of the Grand River.

The minivan ended up in the river and as Hanson tried to get them out of the van, she lost her grip on her son and he was swept down the driver.

His body was recovered April 21.

Questions about road closure signs

On Tuesday, Hanson and Forte will meet with the judge and the Crown attorney for a pretrial session. Forte says during this meeting, it's expected a date for a preliminary inquiry will be set.

He said from his point of view, one of the big issues they'll be raising at trial is the signs and barricades on the roadway at the time of the accident, and whether they were adequate.

"If this road was so dangerous requiring it to be closed and an announcement had gone out to public works and other agencies to close it, then why wasn't it closed properly. Why wasn't it barricaded so as to make it impossible for anyone to drive through," he said.

He also mentioned media reports that said Hanson tested positive for drugs and alcohol on the night of Kaden's death.

That information was found in a family court decision that was published online, but Forte says it's his understanding the documents were under a publication ban.

"How did that happen? Who leaked them? Those are all questions that we will be asking. It certainly didn't come from Ms. Hanson's side of the table," he said.

He said a toxicology report he has indicates Hanson's blood alcohol content was "well below the legal limit" and "cocaine was not detected." Other drugs found in her system, he said, were trace amounts of prescription drugs that were consistent with "therapeutic levels" and not recreational drug use.

Case received attention

Forte says he's spoken with his client about possibly moving the trial to another jurisdiction.

Part of that is because of the intense scrutiny by the community, including online and on social media.

"It is a concern that this case has received so much publicity," he said.

"It's a small community … It's been incredibly difficult for Ms. Hanson to continue to live in that community and she's certainly aware of a lot of those social media takes," he said.

"She also has faith in the system and faith in her community, but it is a concern."

He said a decision will be made at a later date on whether they'll apply for a change of venue. 

Kaden Young, 3, died after he was swept into the Grand River near Orangeville, Ont., on Feb. 21, 2018. His mother, Michelle Hanson, faces three charges in relation to his death: Impaired driving causing death, dangerous driving causing death and criminal negligence causing death. (Submitted by the Young family)