Friday, February 03, 2006

The Wanda Young case

MUN is getting a lot of flack lately and Craig Welsh is discussing it and the lack of response from other blogs. Nancy Burden has also added to the discussion today. The truth is, I’ve had drafts of blog entries on my computer about Wanda Young’s case since the day she won her victory against MUN in the Supreme Court of Canada. The reason I haven’t posted about it until now is that I was waiting to see more details, to try to give the benefit of the doubt to MUN. This is not because I am a MUN grad, and not because I don’t feel for Wanda Young. In fact, my heart goes out to her and I actually gave a little hoot out loud when I heard on the news she had won her case. She has had a very difficult road and has not given in against MUN once. She kept going and I admire her tremendously for that.

The reason I keep waiting for more information on this case is that I have worked in an area where we learned about child protection laws. I remember being told by a cop, who did a workshop with us, that if we had any belief a child was being hurt by anyone, we were obligated by the law to report it. Nothing is more important than child safety, we were told, and if we knew of any form of child abuse and did not report it, we could be charged with a crime ourselves (I think the charge is under the Child Protection Act but those details are fuzzy). So the prof at MUN who reported her concerns about Wanda Young was doing the right thing, wasn’t she? What would we have said if it was discovered that a MUN prof had read a first hand account of someone abusing a child and did not report it (especially if it came out that the writer was indeed an abuser). That is my sticky what-if that keeps me from shaking my fist in the air against MUN (on this issue).

The Supreme Court says that the “university professors acted on conjecture and speculation which fell short of the required “reasonable cause” to make a report to CPS” and they have all the facts so they should know. Again, I am very sorry for what Ms. Young went through and I am pleased she has been vindicated. She was an innocent, caught up in a terrible situation. Still, I would prefer anyone who thinks a child is being abused, make the report in error rather than the abuse continue.

I am also quite concerned by a quote in the CBC piece that says “Young found herself on an RCMP list of suspected child abusers even though no charges were ever laid against her.” From my reading of the Supreme Court judegement, Child Protection Services quickly decided that Wanda Young was not an abuser and dismissed the concerns raised by the prof. So, how did Wanda Young end up on that list and exactly what is the criteria to get on such a list? I think that needs to be addressed as well.


At 6:44 PM, Blogger Helmut said...

Interesting and thoughtful comment. Did Memorial University bring this up in their defense?

At 12:02 AM, Blogger Robert said...

I too confront these issues with work and am told it is not my job to investigate. I am told to report any suspected abuse with out delay or investigation... but isn't the supreme court saying that I need to look a little further... or risk a million dollar lawsuit?

I'm not comfortable with the idea. In my opinion the cost of delaying, waiting for more and more evidence, is too great.

We are taling about the well-being of children.

At 1:46 AM, Blogger John Mutford said...

Plus, what about damages? Didn't she claim that this prevented her becoming a social worker? But if you look at the MUN website concerning this case she couldn't have gotten into the School of Social Work anyways because of her marks. Of course, who's to say that claim is true either? It's hard to trust MUN lately. But still...

At 1:17 PM, Blogger Robert said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 1:21 PM, Blogger Robert said...

The way this whole thing has played out seems wrong to me.

She's been through a horrible, horrible experience but I'm not sure the way it has unfolded has been fair to the university or its staff, either.

And what of the role of Child Protection Services -- surely they own piece of the blame. They were the one who ran (or, in this case, crawled) with the report. They had the capacity to investigate quietly, find the the claim was baseless and let Young go on about her life. Why didn't that happen?

At 4:16 PM, Blogger Sure b'y said...

Exactly, RJ. Where is CPS's responsibilty in this whole mess? Why is MUN the fall guy?

At 7:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting points, BUT my problem is that the CPS told Prof Bella to talk to Wanda. She didn't. Why ?lazy? arrogant? She read one page of a document and made the choice to assume guilt. Five minutes spent early on would have solved everything. There was no child abuse or for that matter no child.

Any accusation should not come out somehow similar to a drive by shooting.

Yes, she poorly accredited a paper, very common, that was no reason to ruin her life. The university is to blame, yes I think two years to investigate is pathetic on the part of the CPS, but the university is to blame.


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