Now that Makaya Sault has died from her untreated leukemia, there’s another 11-year-old first Nations Child from Ontario (“J. J.”) getting “alternative (i.e., useless) treatment, and she’ll also die from the same disease unless someone intervenes. But in this case, a Canadian judge did look at the case, and refused to intervene. Judge Getin Edward, who will have blood on his hands if J. J. dies, ruled against McMaster Children’s Hospital, who wanted to force the child to continue chemotherapy. Doctors there say that J. J. would have had a greater than 90% chance of survival with chemo. But her parents wanted “alternative” and “aboriginal” treatment, though they took J. J. to the Hippocrates Health Institute in Florida, where they use quack nostrums like raw-food diets, lots of vitamins, and cold-laser treatment—hardly “native” healing.
Edward’s ruling was unconscionable; here’s how the National Post described it (my emphasis):
Justice Gethin Edward of the Ontario Court of Justice suggested physicians essentially want to “impose our world view on First Nation culture.” The idea of a cancer treatment being judged on the basis of statistics that quantify patients’ five-year survival rate is “completely foreign” to aboriginal ways, he said.
“Even if we say there is not one child who has been cured of acute lymphoblastic leukemia by traditional methods, is that a reason to invoke child protection?” asked Justice Edward, noting that the girl’s mother believes she is doing what is best for her daughter.
“Are we to second guess her and say ‘You know what, we don’t care?’ … Maybe First Nations culture doesn’t require every child to be treated with chemotherapy and to survive for that culture to have value.”
Yes, Judge Edward, if the child will die without scientific medicine, and if “traditional methods” won’t help, then that is certainly a reason to invoke child protection. The purpose of courts deciding such cases Judge Edward, is because the parents may believe they’re doing best for their children, but sometimes don’t.
In fact, I don’t see how any rational and caring person can rule as the judge did. To conflate J. J.’s chemotherapy with the question of whether J. J.’s First Nations culture “had value” is ludicrous. The fact is that not everything in her culture has to have value, and one thing that doesn’t is its support for those who refuse to treat their sick children properly. Judge Edward apparently cares more for the reputation of an aboriginal culture than for the life of this poor child. He’s an idiot.
A new piece on CBC News highlights J. J.’s plight. Reporter Connie Walker, a First Nations person herself (a Cree), was allowed to visit J. J., talk to her mother, and witness her treatment. The picture is bleak.
First, here are J. J.’s “medicines”, which don’t look helpful:
And the reporter has a few tart words about this treatment:
As a First Nations person myself, I’m confident I can say that none of my ancestors abided by a strict raw vegan diet, or took high doses of vitamins intravenously or underwent cold laser technology. Regardless, her mother said Hippocrates was in line with her belief in natural medicine.
Walker adds this:
When we arrived, J.J. was preparing her “green drink” of wheatgrass and juiced raw vegetables. Raw vegetables have been pretty much the only thing she’s been allowed to eat since she left chemotherapy in August.
But if she minded, she didn’t say. She didn’t say much of anything actually. She was quiet and shy but very sweet, and like most children in a frightening situation, she looked often to her mother to guide her.
And of course her mom professes deep love for the child she’s in the process of killing:
Her mom is a strong, confident woman. Direct and honest. Not afraid to share her views.
We had a long interview at their kitchen table where she described in detail her experience since her daughter’s diagnosis.
Last summer, she says, she had a healthy, happy daughter, and within a matter of weeks she was living every parent’s worst nightmare. It was obviously traumatizing for both.
There is no doubt she is a mother who loves her daughter fiercely. She won’t let anyone stand in her way in doing what she believes is best for her little girl.
What kind of “love” is that, though? I’m prepared to believe that the mother believes she loves her daughter, but its akin to the kind of love that men profess for their wives before they beat them. What mother would learn that her daughter has a greater-than-90% chance of cure with chemotherapy, and none with alternative medicine, and yet still choose the latter? It’s a mindset that baffles me completely.
Another disturbing revelation is that Dr. Bruce Clement, the head of the Hippocrates Health Institute, apparently persuaded the mother to take J. J. off chemotherapy. He, too, will have blood on his hands. How can these people live with themselves?
[J. J.’s mother] described Hippocrates as an amazing place. “It’s like a resort,” she said. She spoke about the director, Brian Clement, with glowing adoration. “What struck me most,” she said, “was he was not afraid of cancer. Cancer didn’t shake him like it shook me.”
I’ve seen many videos of Clement. There is no doubt he has a way with words. He travels around the world giving lectures, extolling the virtues of wheatgrass, and talking down vaccines, cancer and Western medicine.
It was his words that convinced her to leave chemo. She said she called him from the waiting room at McMaster and he assured her that leukemia was “not difficult for them to deal with.”
Clement now denies he said that, and when the reporter asked him for examples of people he had cured, he ordered her off the property. Here he is lecturing the reporter (photo from CBC)
J. J.’s last hope is the Brant Children’s Aid Society, which has refused to intervene twice when J. J. and her predecessor Makayla Sault were removed from chemotherapy. In fact, they praised the judge’s decision. Have a look at how the Children’s Aid Society director Andrew Koster behaved in this affair.
Both times, after just a few days investigating, they determined that despite the life-threatening illness that would almost surely result in death without treatment, these girls were not in need of his protection.
I interviewed Koster in May. In his office, he showed me the hutch filled with First Nations artifacts he’s collected over the years of working in child welfare.
He said it was the Child and Family Services Act that required them to “respect First Nations culture” and he “couldn’t even begin to think” about removing her from a caring family environment and forcing her into chemo.
Koster also called Judge Edward’s ruling to let the child undergo alternative treatment a “landmark decision.” That’s really screwed up. This man is odious and dangerous. He’s protecting a culture, not children, and he should be fired. And strongly doubt that his organization requires “respect” of a form that prohibits intervention when a child’s life is at stake. Here’s the miscreant and his minion with the CBC’s caption:
Why do First Nations people get preferred treatment here, when in other cases in Canada parents who refuse medical treatment, even on religious grounds, not only get their children taken away, but are prosecuted for neglect. Last December, for example, 14-month old John Clark died of a staph infection after his Seventh Day Adventist parents refused to take him to a doctor, giving him vegetables instead (he was malnourished when he died).
As Global News notes, “Under the Criminal Code, the parents or guardians of a child are legally required to provide the basic necessities of life including food, shelter, care and medical attention.” And in that case religious beliefs didn’t matter: the parents’ other two children were taken away and mom and dad were both charged with “criminal negligence causing death and failure to provide the necessities of life.”
So why do First Nations parents get a break and Seventh Day Adventist parents not? There seems to be some inconsistency here. In the case of J. J. and Makayla Sault, after all, both children were refused “the necessities of life”—chemotherapy. And in both cases the refusal to get proper treatment was based on faith.
Unless the Brant Children’s Aid Society changes its mind and intervenes, which is unlikely, J. J. too will die. And as her mother lays her in her grave, she’ll insist that she deeply loved her child. The problem is that she, the judge, and the Children’s Aid Society love First Nations “culture” more.