Manitoba

Mother of sexually exploited eight-year-old placed on Child Abuse Registry for failing to see 'red flags'

Child and Family Services argued the woman failed to identify "multiple 'red flags' that a reasonable parent would have recognized," and successfully argued the mother "poses a risk, not only to her own children, but to all children," according to court documents.

Mother allowed her daughter to spend several overnights unsupervised with man she just met

Manitoba's Court of Queen's Bench has ordered the mother of a sexually exploited girl be placed on the Child Abuse Registry because the woman failed to protect her child from harm. (Darren Bernhardt/CBC)

A Manitoba mother has been added to the Child Abuse Registry for failing to protect her daughter from being sexually exploited.

Under a publication ban to protect the identity of the girl, neither the woman nor the man convicted of abusing her daughter can be named. The girl was eight years old when she was abused by the man, who at one time worked as a teacher in the small southern Manitoba community where the abuse occurred in 2016.

The man is currently serving an eight-year prison sentence for sexual interference, invitation to sexual touching and making sexually explicit material available to a child following a 2018 trial. A charge of sexual assault was stayed.

The director of Child and Family Services petitioned Manitoba's Court of Queen's Bench to add the mother's name to the abuse registry to identify her as a risk, "not because of any overt act of abuse that she committed, but rather by her own omissions that resulted in the sexual exploitation of her child," according to the April 9 ruling.  

CFS argued the woman failed to identify "multiple 'red flags' that a reasonable parent would have recognized," and successfully argued the mother "poses a risk, not only to her own children, but to all children," according to the court documents.

Her decision … to allow [the man] unfettered and unsupervised access to her child for multiple days cannot be explained as a mistake.- Justice Kaye E. Dunlop

Justice Kaye E. Dunlop agreed and pointed to two instances in which she said the woman should have recognized the danger the man posed to her child.

The mother said on one occasion, her daughter began to act "like a sexy thing" in front of the man and it concerned her. The woman said she got angry but the man made light of the situation. His comments made her feel "weird," the mother said.

The other incident occurred while the mother and the man were at a local bar and he told her he liked "small girls." Later that night, while the mother was in bed with him, she got "the impression that he wanted the child to join them in what can only be described as a threesome." 

"By the time [he] said ...that he wanted the child in bed with them, the issue of the child potentially being or having been sexually abused by [the man] was literally staring the mother in the face," Dunlop wrote in her decision.

"Her decision thereafter to allow [the man] unfettered and unsupervised access to her child for multiple days cannot be explained as a mistake."

Mother 'smitten' with man

The mother argued that she and her daughter were both victims and had been manipulated by the man. The woman had recently separated from her husband and shared custody of the eight-year-old girl and the girl's five-year-old sister.

The mother met the man in the summer of 2016, while moving into an apartment in the building where he lived. He offered to help, and the woman accepted. He told her that he was a teacher and used to be a principal at a school elsewhere. The pair hit it off instantly. 

"The mother was not only smitten … but impressed with his credentials," said the decision. 

Within a few days, the mother let him walk her daughter to school, and even allowed her to sleep at his apartment unsupervised. At one point, the mother let the man sleep on her couch when his lease ran out. 

"He sexually abused [the child] in her own bed in her mother's home while her mother and sister were sleeping and when he was supposed to be sleeping on the couch. He had showers with her regularly in his apartment and in the home he was staying in," said the decision.

The girl told RCMP that the man began sexually abusing her three days after she first met him, and the abuse continued every time she saw him. The mother estimated that would have been 20 to 30 times in a one-month period, the court documents said. 

Justice Dunlop found the mother failed her child in many unintended ways, but that she loved her daughters deeply.

"The mother presented as a very sympathetic character in many aspects. Her testimony at the hearing was heartbreaking, if not traumatic, for all in attendance. The depth of her pain about what happened to her child was obvious," wrote Dunlop. 

Monique St. Germain, general counsel for the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, says there has been an increase in cases where predators gain access to children through their mothers. (Canadian Centre for Child Protection Inc.)

The Canadian Centre for Child Protection said while this is a sad case, the judge made the right decision.

"Having a child sleeping at someone's house — an adult that you've only recently met — seems to be a bit of a big red flag," said Monique St. Germain, the protection centre's general counsel.

"I think that everybody being a little better educated and informed about offending behaviour, and about the ways that individuals will attempt to gain access to children, is important."

St. Germain said the child protection centre has seen an increase in cases where predators gain access to children through their mothers, and essentially groom both the parent and the child.

"Nobody wants to believe that someone close to them is capable of sexually abusing a child," she said.

"You can't tell by looking at someone that they are a sex offender. It is only through the behaviours.… That is one of the most important things to keep in mind."

St. Germain doesn't know of any other case where a parent has been added to the abuse registry for failing to protect their child. She said in some cases, police have charged parents or caregivers with failing to provide the necessaries of life, but not every situation meets the criteria under the Criminal Code of Canada.

"The child abuse registry then can step in as another way to potentially ensure that the individual whose name is on the registry is not placed in a position where they are having access to children," said St. Germain.

The mother has lost custody of her children to their father and sees them only once per month on a supervised basis. 

About the Author

Caroline Barghout

Investigative Reporter, CBC Manitoba I-Team

Caroline began her career co-hosting an internet radio talk show in Toronto and then worked at various stations in Oshawa, Sudbury and Toronto before landing in Winnipeg in 2007. Since joining CBC Manitoba as a reporter in 2013, she has won an award for her work on crowded jails and her investigation into Tina Fontaine's death led to changes in the child welfare system. Email: caroline.barghout@cbc.ca

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