Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Child Welfare Hearings Must Be Sooner When Kids Seized: Manitoba Court Ruling

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Child Welfare Hearings Must Be Sooner When Kids Seized: Manitoba Court Ruling

Article excerpt

Appeal Court calls for speed in child hearings

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WINNIPEG - The Manitoba Court of Appeal has ruled that parents whose children are seized by social workers have a right to an expedited hearing if they want their kids back.

The ruling involves a couple whose child was seized at birth in December 2015, due in part to concerns over the parents' mental health.

The parents, who cannot be identified under provincial law, hired separate lawyers and it was more than a year before there was a full hearing.

An interim hearing was held, but the Appeal Court has ruled such hearings can make matters worse by taking up more court time while all parties are waiting for a final decision.

The Appeal Court ruled in January that waiting times of 10 months or more are unreasonable and violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In its written decision Friday, the court stopped short of setting a maximum wait time, but said hearings must be held sooner when children are taken from their parents.

"A timely but fair and balanced hearing is essential," Justice William Burnett wrote on behalf of the three-member panel.

"There are numerous factors which affect when the hearing is to be conducted but, generally speaking, when the parents are ready to proceed, an expedited hearing must be conducted. …

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