Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Manitoba Appeal Court Eyes New Guidelines to Speed Up Child-Welfare Hearings

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Manitoba Appeal Court Eyes New Guidelines to Speed Up Child-Welfare Hearings

Article excerpt

Child welfare delay 'unacceptable': judge

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WINNIPEG - Waiting times of 10 months or more for child-welfare court hearings are unreasonable and violate the Charter of Rights, the Manitoba Court of Appeal said Friday in upholding a lower court ruling.

But the three-justice appeal panel intends to take some time to determine how long a delay would be acceptable -- and indicated the result is likely to be guidelines that vary depending on a case's circumstances.

Friday's hearing concerned a couple whose child was seized at birth in December 2015, due in part to concerns over the parents' mental health. They cannot be identified under provincial law.

The parents wanted to regain custody and hired separate lawyers. Hearings were occasionally pushed back and the case was finally set for Jan. 30 of this year.

"A 10- or 13-month delay is totally unacceptable in my opinion," Justice William Burnett said.

Kris Janovcik, the lawyer for the director of Child and Family Services, told court the couple could have filed motions for hearings that would have sped things up, but they did not.

He also pointed to planned improvements recently announced by the chief justice of the Court of Queen's Bench aimed at ensuring parents can obtain hearings within three months. …

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