An 18-year-old asked a court yesterday to let him rescue his brothers from the clutches of psychiatric deprogramming therapists and "incompetent" parents battling for control of their children.
The young man injected himself into the parental alienation case after his brothers - aged 12 and 14 - were bounced from a hospital psychiatric ward into a foster home in December because they refused to participate in a court-ordered therapy program.
The therapy, ordered in November by Ontario Superior Court Judge Francine Van Melle, was aimed at exorcising poisonous thoughts toward the mother that their controlling father had planted in the boys' minds.
Judge Van Melle granted the mother sole custody and authorized her to force her sons into a deprogramming clinic.
The court heard yesterday that, after the boys refused to go along with the deprogrammers, the mother had them returned to Toronto and committed to a psychiatric ward at St. Joseph's Health Centre.
A child psychiatrist at the hospital, Nagi Ghabbour, quickly became convinced that the prospect of forced therapy had turned the boys potentially suicidal. Dr. Ghabbour said in a letter that the boys felt "trapped in the legal system," and were filled with a sense of helplessness.
Dr. Ghabbour urged an immediate end to any further psychiatric assessments or forced therapy, and called on the Catholic Children's Aid Society to seize the children to forestall any further attempts by the mother to deprogram them.
Yesterday's hearing was to decide whether the eldest brother can intervene in CCAS proceedings to place his brothers in long-term foster care.
"I am not enmeshed in this dispute," the youth said in an affidavit. "Unfortunately, and tragically in a way, for my brothers and me, whatever I do is seen as a cancerous outgrowth of my dad, and so no progress can be made."
The youth's lawyer, Jeffery Wilson, said that a point has been reached where the well-being of all three children is threatened. He also told Ontario Court Judge Steven Clark that his client's plan to raise his brothers on welfare - augmented by support payments from their parents - is feasible, "especially against the backdrop of two parents who have been largely incompetent in providing stability to the children."
Mr. Wilson said that the youth views parental alienation deprogramming as "voodoo science," and that he is prepared to launch a lawsuit to stop further treatment if necessary.
However, Marvin Kurz, a lawyer for the mother, maintained that the woman's ex-husband is using her eldest son as a puppet in an attempt to get his two youngest sons back, or else, "put them in perpetual limbo.''
"What he has done is take up his father's sword and shield to enter the battlefield on behalf of his brothers," Mr. Kurz said. "If he is granted leave [to intervene], they will turn this case inside out."
Mr. Kurz also denigrated any idea that the boys were mistreated at the deprogramming clinic. "They weren't drugged," he said. "They weren't tied down. There is no point having them there, with their eyes closed and their fingers in their ears."
The mother argued in an affidavit that if her eldest son is permitted legal standing in the case, "it will send a message to his brothers that they, too, can attempt to manipulate the court system to avoid orders such as that of Justice Van Melle."
She said that her eldest son has been so brainwashed by her ex-husband that he refuses even to greet her when he sees her in court. "It is a great shame that my son, so intelligent and bright, is unable to live his life like a normal teenager," she said. "He should not spend all of his energy fighting his father's battles."
In an interview, however, the 18-year-old blamed his mother for the relentless domestic tug-of-war.
"My brothers were taken forcefully and exposed to this [deprogramming] concept - which is a pretty strong method," he said. "Most of the time, I have to convince myself that all of this is real. I think about it as being someone else's life - because it doesn't seem like it could be happening to me."
The startling chain of events highlighted a growing controversy over parental alienation and the therapies used to reverse it. A handful of U.S. therapists have touted their deprogramming clinics in Canada, resulting in at least three judicial treatment orders.
The parents of the three boys, who were raised in Eastern Europe, split up nine years ago amid a flurry of accusations that each had abused the children.
Ruling against a motion to shut the courtroom to reporters yesterday, Judge Clark remarked that, "without wanting to be flippant, there is little further risk to the children."
He reserved his ruling on the eldest son's motion.
Notice the Globe did not have any comments?
Here is the commentary of the Ottawa Mens Centre
Dont expect Judge Clark to treat the son's motion seriously,
they have allready made conclusions on behalf of the mother that defy the evidence.
Expect more forced deprogramming to have the children think the mother and Justice Clark's way.