Woman freed on bail 

Friday, July 9, 2004

By Rachel Boomer
Carline VandenElsen as she left court yesterday. (Photo: Scott Dunlop)

Carline VandenElsen walked out of court a free woman for the first time in seven weeks yesterday, sporting a Mona Lisa smile and a zipped lip.

The smile was the 41-year-old’s only comment on getting bail. After an emotional plea to the court Wednesday, the slender woman had nothing to say to reporters as she drove away in a friend’s car yesterday.

She’s been behind bars since May 21, after her fight to keep her infant from Children’s Aid led to a three-day standoff with police.

After hearing a full day of evidence, Halifax provincial court Judge James Burrill ruled she wasn’t a flight risk, since the baby is now in foster care, and outside her reach.

“The plan has always included flight with her child,” Burrill ruled. “There’s no evidence before the court that she ever made a plan to flee without her child.”

Crown attorney Rick Woodburn had argued VandenElsen should be kept behind bars, arguing she’s fled before with this baby, and with triplets from a previous relationship.

“Her entire MO (modus operandi) is flight,” Woodburn said. “If there’s even a thought that a (court) order’s going to be made, she’s gone.”

He argued she would stop at nothing to find her child in foster care, take the baby, and vanish before she can be tried on the May charges.

“If she finds out where (the baby) is … that’s a very real risk. Not just a risk of getting that baby, but whoever’s standing in her way is at risk.”

But defence lawyer Burnley (Rocky) Jones insisted VandenElsen has only ever violated court orders out of fear of losing her children for no good reason.

He argued the Children’s Aid Society in Halifax began asking for the right to supervise the baby’s care not because VandenElsen was abusing the baby, but because they believed she might have “psychological difficulties.”

“Some may say all of us have psychological difficulties,” Jones said. “But does that mean they can come and take our children?”

VandenElsen and her brother-in-law, Wayne Finck, agreed to put up a total of $10,000 worth of property as a guarantee that she would reappear in court. Finck, a longtime schoolteacher, testified he had “full confidence” VandenElsen would abide by the court’s orders.

Burrill ordered her not to have any contact with her infant unless allowed by the courts. She must also turn over her passport, and will have to report in person twice a week to the court office.

VandenElsen will be back in court July 26 for a preliminary inquiry.