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Alleged racist parents lose custody of children Add to ...

The bizarre case dwelled on Norse mythology, decoded Hitler references and heard a seven-year-old girl's graphic description of how to kill black people.

But ultimately the judge's ruling rested on a snake, some dog droppings and general parental neglect.

In a decision released yesterday, Queen's Bench Justice Marianne Rivoalen ruled that a child whose parents sent her to school emblazoned with white-supremacist slogans will remain under permanent foster care, denying the father's bid for custody of his two children. To protect the children's identities, no one involved in the case can be named.

The case drew international media attention and touched off heated debate on whether the state can seize children from parents who espouse hate. In the end, however, bigotry played a marginal role.

"This case was not so much about racism as it was about the protection of children from poor parenting," Judge Rivoalen said in a written judgment. "What is clear from all of the evidence is that these two children have been exposed to a whole constellation of parental inadequacies."

The sad saga began nearly two years ago - March 24, 2008 - when the girl arrived at school with racist graffiti scrawled on her skin. Sent home with instructions to scrub them off, she appeared the next day emblazoned with bolder slogans: White Pride, Aryan Pride, a coded form of Heil Hitler and the sentence, "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children."

Teachers called in social workers. During interviews, they found that the family's belief in white supremacy went far deeper. She calmly explained to them that "black people don't belong" and described a method of killing minorities using a ball and chain.

Child and Family Services soon seized both the girl and her 21/2-year-old brother, who had also been festooned with slogans.

During an interview with The Globe and Mail, the mother described how the slogans represented ancient Norse, or Odinist, beliefs.

The hateful teachings were but a window into a far more disturbing home life, according to Judge Rivoalen's decision. Several family members testified that the children and their parents lived in deplorable conditions, their house surrounded by dog droppings, soaked in pet urine and ruled by a snake that would devour live animals in front of the children.

The girl often missed school because her stepfather was a chronic over-sleeper. The parents had once abandoned the girl at her grandparents for several months and would regularly get drunk and smoke marijuana.

Soon after their children were seized, the couple separated. While the father filed for custody, the mother left for another province.

Throughout the nine-month custody case, the boy's father, who works intermittently as a security guard, argued that Child and Family Services had violated his Charter rights in taking the children. But his constitutional arguments shifted several times and seemed poorly reasoned. Judge Rivoalen dismissed them out of hand.

Toward the end of the case, both the mother and the girl's biological father argued that the stepfather was too unstable for custody. Judge Rivoalen agreed, saying that his plan to have the children live with his parents for six months while he "gets his act together is not realistic and not in her best interests."

Child and Family Services was granted permanent guardianship, but the mother, who has since returned to Manitoba, can appeal for custody in one year.

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