Father of dead Granby, Que., girl defended stepmother in 2018 court appearance

The father of the seven-year-old Granby, Que., girl who died after being found in critical condition in her home by police this week defended his girlfriend in court last year, when the woman was granted a full discharge after pleading guilty to assaulting his daughter.

Stepmother, now charged with aggravated assault, pleaded guilty to assaulting girl in 2017

Dozens of people have left stuffed toys near the Granby home where a girl was found in critical condition by police on Monday. The girl died Tuesday, and her father and stepmother are facing charges. (Charles Contant/CBC)

The father of the seven-year-old Granby, Que., girl who died after being found in critical condition in her home by police earlier this week defended his girlfriend in court last year, when the woman pleaded guilty to assaulting his daughter. 

The 30-year-old man, who cannot be named because of a court-ordered publication ban to protect the girl's identity, said he and his girlfriend were having a tough time raising the girl because of the child's "difficult character."

The 35-year-old stepmother admitted to having hit the girl in the back of the head and pulling her hair in September 2017. She was granted a full discharge.

The same woman and the girl's father were arrested after police found the girl critically injured at the family home Monday. The child remained in a coma until her death in hospital Tuesday.

The pair appeared in court on Wednesday and both were charged with forcible confinement. The stepmother faces an additional charge of aggravated assault.

In his testimony at the July 2018 hearing about the 2017 assault on the child, the father said the couple had gone drinking after they had been in family court that day. When they returned home, they had been fighting, and the woman took out her frustration on the girl, he said.

CBC News obtained a recording of the court proceedings.

"It was an accumulation of things," he told the judge. "This is a special case; there are several circumstances involved." 

The father complained his mother and his ex-partner, the girl's biological mother, had joined forces to oppose his custody of the girl.

Grandmother questioned father's ability to care for girl

The man's mother told Radio-Canada Wednesday that she had custody of her granddaughter for the first four years of her life, but that it was eventually granted to her son. 

She questioned her son's ability to care for the girl and said she had "fought for years — since 2015 — with the DPJ [youth protection authorities] to get her out of there."

A Radio-Canada reporter speaks with the grandmother of the seven-year-old girl who died in Granby after she was found in critical condition in a home by police Monday. CBC is not naming the grandmother to protect the girl's identity. (Radio-Canada)

"They would only take his word," the woman said.

The director of the youth protection agency for the Eastern Townships, which oversees services in Granby, was suspended Thursday in the wake of the girl's death.

The provincial government also announced there will be a public coroner's inquest and other investigations into the girl's death and her interactions with youth protection, in addition to the criminal investigation being conducted by Sûreté du Québec.

'We're going to explode,' father told judge

The night in 2017 "degenerated," the father said in court, after he and the stepmother had made repeated calls for help to youth protection and social workers because of the girl's behavioural issues. 

"One day we're going to explode. We can't do it anymore," he said. 

The father said he and his girlfriend both called police that night after the assault.

When Youth Court Judge Érick Vanchestein asked him why, he hesitated before replying that they wanted the police involvement to push the youth protection authority to give them the support they needed. 

The grandmother's interview with Radio-Canada tells a different story. She said she tried to tell youth protection it was a case of abuse, but "we always got turned around."

The girl was exhibiting signs of psychological trauma, the grandmother said. 

'Difficult little girl'

The father said that before the assault, the girl would have "big crises: we're talking howling; we're talking self-mutilation behaviours; peeing and pooping at any moment. She would sometimes spread her excrement on the walls."

"She's a really difficult little girl."

The judge asked if youth protection had stepped in. The father said it had, and as a result, the girl had been prescribed medication.

"She sleeps now, but she still has — well, she's happy at home and everything, but when she gets into her bubble, she stays closed off for a long time," the father said. 

Stuffed animals and flowers have been left outside the girl's home. (Charles Contant/CBC)

He explained that he and his daughter had to go live with friends, because his girlfriend was released after the assault on the condition that she could no longer have contact with the girl. 

The father said he begged youth protection authorities to allow the couple to see each other because he was having financial difficulties and needed to return home. He said that's when they finally stepped in to help. 

Vanchestein eventually granted the stepmother a full discharge, calling the move "exceptional."

The woman said she was sorry and that "even if she's a difficult child, this is hard on my pride. I should have done better."

The couple is expected back in court May 23. 

About the Author

Verity Stevenson is a reporter with CBC in Montreal. She has previously worked for the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star in Toronto, and the Telegraph-Journal in Saint John.