A northern Manitoba child welfare agency claims it published the names of a mother and her children in a local newspaper because it couldn’t find the woman any other way.
The Cree Nation Child & Family Caring Agency confirmed it placed a quarter-page advertisement in the Opasquia Times in August.
The ad, which names the woman and her three children, said the agency was applying for a six-month temporary order of guardianship under the Child and Family Services (CFS) Act.
It also identified the children’s First Nation and their birthdates.
“I find it surprising that CFS claims that confidentiality is a priority but then places an advertisement in a newspaper that breaches the confidentiality of the entire family,” said Stacie Desnomie, who sent a photo of the ad to APTN News.
“I can understand a judge demanding that every and all effort be made to serve the mom in regards to court but I can’t imagine a judge suggesting that confidentiality be breached in such a manner.”
But that’s exactly what happened, said Michael Clark, a Winnipeg-based lawyer for the Indigenous agency.
“If there’s no trace of somebody – no email address, no address, no Facebook page – no way of giving them a private message,” he said, “the only way to serve is to do it publicly like this in a newspaper.”
Clark noted publishing the legal notice was “rare” in a system where information is usually protected and parents are supposed to be notified of court dates in person.
“The courts don’t grant that very often because of the private nature of child protection matters,” he added.
“The judge says, ‘Hey, you need to put this in a local paper where these parents or someone that knows them might see it and tell them to be at court on a certain day because the guardianship of their children is in court that day.’”
A spokesperson for the agency said it had no choice.
“If a court ordered us to do it, we do it,” said Margaret Cook, Cree Nation’s acting executive director.
Yet it would be against the law for APTN News or any media outlet to publish the same names.
Cook and Clark were unable to say whether the tactic brought the mother to court because they couldn’t discuss individual cases.
The legal notice warned an “order respecting the said children may be made in your absence” if the woman didn’t appear.