When do cultural, political or religious beliefs cross the line from fair discourse to dangerous ravings?
When those beliefs threaten the very safety of others.
When does the guidance of a parent become the tool for creating a monster?
When teachings in the home migrate from value systems to killing techniques.
A young girl and her toddler brother are at the centre of a custody court case in Winnipeg that has shone a harsh spotlight on the parenting skills of one family. No doubt, there are other families similarly dysfunctional in the extreme.
The custody hearing in Court of Queen’s Bench involves a Manitoba girl who arrived at school more than a year ago bearing ink-drawn white supremacist phrases and emblems on her skin.
The seven-year-old girl told a social worker how to kill black people: by whipping them with a ball and chain.
“She told me that what people don’t understand is that black people should die,” the social worker testified. “She stated that everyone who is not white should die.”
In her home, the girl was exposed to written, website and video material on white supremacism and racial violence.
The girl frequently missed school. The toddler was used on a poster promoting white supremacy.
The parents spouted hate-filled nonsense the way others talk about sharing and caring.
In the wake of these discoveries by social workers, the parents separated and the mother has moved to Quebec. She has been granted some custody, despite the ongoing court case. She has, at least publicly, subdued her white supremacist tendencies.
For some observers, that would make the court case and ensuing controversy moot.
For others, the very presence of government officials in a debate about child rearing is odious, regardless of the circumstances.
But we’re not talking here about the right to teach your children religious beliefs or cultural values; we’re talking about hate, the promotion of violence and even advocating death for a certain segment of the population.
In short, we’re talking about children who have been subjected to emotional and mental abuse in the extreme.
So is this little girl still at risk, and could she mature into a hate-filled, violence-prone adult, destined to similarly infect another generation?
That’s the state’s business to discover, through court proceedings.
Society must trust parents to tackle the complex job of child rearing.
There is no means test to determine worthiness of potential parents, nor should there be: the goal shouldn’t be cookie-cutter children, it should be informed, equipped and open minds.
The mother of young Ontario murder victim Tori Stafford, Tara McDonald, has been under enormous pressure as the police investigation into the killing unfolded. More than once, as the sad details of her life were sifted through, she has bemoaned the lack of a handbook to navigate through a parent’s duties.
There may not be a handbook, but there certainly are a number of resources available for parents to help develop healthy, happy, tolerant children.
If the mother at the heart of this debate makes an effort to use those resources, and if government officials closely monitor their progress, the best course of action would be to let the children stay with her.
But let’s be clear: society cannot turn away from the seeds of hate-filled violence.
John Stewart is the Advocate’s managing editor.