(This column was published in the North Shore News on Jan. 6, 1999)
Family not so free in B.C.
By Leo Knight
THE ongoing saga of the Marcu family in its battle with the Ministry of Children and Families came to a happy conclusion just before Christmas when an agreement was reached to bring the matter before a judge to rule on whether the government should be involved.
Something that the regular reader will remember the family was asking for from the outset. But that ministry officials seemed dead set against.
It took the father, Iaon Marcu, taking the rather extreme step of going on a hunger strike and finally occupying the premier's constituency office to force the issue.
Now, the story has been outlined in this space, including a response to a written treatise from the minister, Lois Boone, suggesting the North Shore News had it wrong. Well, we didn't.
The problems encountered by the Marcu family emanated from the theory of two doctors suggesting the possibility that Mrs. Marcu had Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy (MSBP), a dubious psychiatric condition in which the sufferer harms another person to gain attention. With nothing more than a theory based on the most specious of arguments, the ministry moved to apprehend the three-year-old daughter, Yonella.
The Marcu family fought back and ultimately were forced to go into hiding to keep the kids away from the social workers ostensibly looking out for the child's best interests.
Iaon Marcu, you'll remember, was sent to jail for not disclosing the whereabouts of his wife and family to the ministry who wanted to rip apart the family.
I spoke with the Marcu family at length over the holidays including Yonella, who is as normal and happy a little girl as I have ever had occasion to meet. Now in and of itself, that probably doesn't mean a whole lot. But as much as the story was offensive when I first researched it, the more I learned, the more the ministry's actions became incomprehensible.
The Marcu family came to Canada from Romania, then under the ruthless dictatorship of Nicolei Ceaucescu. Iaon Marcu had to flee the country via the underground, knowing if he were caught it meant certain death. Ceaucescu's secret police interrogated Maricela Marcu at length trying to determine Iaon's whereabouts and his underground contacts.
But she didn't tell them he had gone to Canada and they left, frustrated by their inability to learn more.
But even in that brutal regime, Mrs. Marcu was not sent to prison to force her to talk -- diametrically opposed to the way our justice system treated Mr. Marcu under similar circumstances.
In our meeting on New Year's Day, Iaon Marcu told me how he fled Romania looking for the promise of freedom in the democratic west. Instead he found the social "democracy" of the NDP.
Now, as he reflects on the intrusive actions of this government, he no longer feels the freedom he risked his life to find. And that, dear reader, should be cause for shame for all of us who have never known, first hand, the tyranny of a communist regime.
Unfortunately, as the Marcu family prepare for their day in court, they can take no comfort in its history of providing justice when it comes to cases involving MSBP.
In the week prior to the hunger strike by Iaon Marcu, the most recent and possibly final chapter was written by the B.C. Court of Appeal in another celebrated case where the ministry alleged the mom was suffering from MSBP. I can only refer to that case as "B.S." because, even though the names have been widely reported in the early days of the matter, for some strange reason the ministry officials have decided the media can no longer identify the participants.
In point of fact, the ministry has specifically directed the mom not to speak to the media without risking the wrath of those who know best. So much for freedom of speech. Then again, no one can ever accuse this government of standing up for free speech.
The "B.S." case involves a little girl, now 11 years old, who was born with a litany of physical problems, not the least of which being cerebral palsy. She was apprehended from her birth mother shortly after she was born. "B.S." adopted the little girl when she was four after fostering her for a little over a year.
The court and medical files encompass over 10 boxes of material, far more than can be discussed in this limited space. But let me tell you the treatment received by "B.S." and her daughter, "R." can only be described as shocking.
Even when the so-called evidence was presented in court, the trial judge held that the burden of proof was much lower than in criminal court (proof beyond a reasonable doubt) or civil proceedings (on the balance of probabilities).
In the "B.S." case, the expert witness, curiously enough the same expert as in the Marcu case, all bandied about the term MSBP but ultimately said it could not be proved. The whole case was based on supposition, theory and, in my view, misleading the court by "fudging" the facts.
The judge even said in his decision, "I deliberately refrain from stating what my decision would have been had I had to decide on a balance of probabilities or any higher standard ..."
The ministry is able, given the "B.S." decision, to put forth any theory or supposition and even though it may not be supported by facts and evidence, get the court to order a family dismantled.
This is not the stuff of a proper democracy, yet the Child, Family and Community Service Act allows it and the judicial process goes along with it.
For some reason the Charter of Rights and Freedoms seems only to apply for the junkies, drug dealers and pernicious thieves who habitually come in front of the courts.
I truly hope the Marcu family will not continue to be victimized by our so-called democracy when they finally get their hard fought for day in court.
But I'm skeptical.