Father wants custody and return of his Jehovah’s Witness daughters to Calgary

Canadian Press, Aug. 19, 2002

CALGARY (CP) — The father of a Jehovah’s Witness teen who was involved in a court battle over his daughter’s right to refuse blood transfusions has filed for custody of his two daughters and wants the courts to order them to live in Alberta.

“I think it’s best that the girls live with me,” the Calgary father said Monday. “And I’d like them to be with me in Calgary.”

Although it’s the girl’s 17th birthday Tuesday, her father can’t wish her a happy birthday because he has no way of contacting her.

He hasn’t seen his wife and daughters since they left Calgary on July 20 so the 17-year old could receive alternative chemotherapy treatment for her leukemia at an undisclosed Canadian clinic.

The 52-year-old father, who was stunned to learn that his wife and children left the city, has been telephoned by his daughters and wife only a few times since their departure.

Since the girl was once a temporary ward of the province in order to force her to take blood transfusions, the family can’t be named under terms of the Alberta Child Welfare Act.

“I don’t know exactly where they are, so I can’t send her a birthday gift,” said the father, adding that he knows the community where his family is but he has no way of contacting them.

As part of the Christian-based faith, Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t celebrate birthdays — they are taught that birthday celebrations give excessive importance to individuals.

The father said he celebrates birthdays now that he no longer is a Witness.

In a notice of motion, the father has stated the mother removed the children from Alberta without notice or consent and that his wife and the Watchtower and Bible Tract Society of Canada “have put the children at risk physically, emotionally and financially.”

In a divorce statement, the father is asking that in the event that he gets custody of his two children, 17 and 15, that his wife is ordered to pay child support.

David Gnam, the girl’s lawyer, said his client’s blood-count levels have recently decreased after three weeks of mild chemotherapy.

“That’s worrisome, although it’s not unexpected,” Gnam said from his law office in Georgetown, Ont.

“This is a selective chemotherapy,” he said. “The new form is targeted just at the cancer cells.”
Gnam said he can’t divulge where his client is receiving treatment.

“I’m instructed by my client not to say where she is,” he said.

Since the girl was diagnosed with an acute form of leukemia last February, the family has been embroiled in an intense court battle.

The case has split the family. The girl’s father consented to blood transfusions while the girl, her sisters and mother were adamantly against the procedure, citing that Jehovah’s Witnesses believe the Bible forbids blood transfusions.

Through 20 court proceedings, judges ruled that the girl must undergo blood transfusions because the Alberta government had temporary custody of her and the Child Welfare Act states the law must protect children’s lives.

The girl received 38 blood transfusions, often while being pinned to her bed by hospital staff.

Doctors had testified that the traditional medical treatments of chemotherapy and blood transfusions were the girl’s best hope for recovery. But the transfusions were stopped when a court heard that the girl had a relapse with cancerous lesions on her back.

To the girl’s disappointment, the Supreme Court of Canada refused early July to hear the case.

Gnam said the girl’s chemotherapy treatment, which began July 29, generally takes about 50 to 60 days to complete.

The two girls and their mother intend to return to Calgary, where they have rented a three-bedroom apartment since June, Gnam said.


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Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday August 20, 2002.
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