A B.C. Supreme Court judge upheld a Ministry of Children and Family Development decision against a 2018 Vancouver city council candidate who argued it was his constitutional right to send his five young children on a TransLink bus without him.
In a Nov. 14, 2019 written ruling, which was published Jan. 13, 2020, Justice Stephen Kelleher dismissed Adrian Crook’s court petition. Crook contended that the B.C. government infringed upon his right to life, liberty and security of person.
“Mr. Crook’s constitutional point is this, section 7 of the Charter protects parental decision-making and creates a presumption that parents should make important decisions affecting their children,” Kelleher wrote.
“There is no Charter-related error justifying the intervention of the court,” Kelleher concluded in his verdict, which does not include the names of the children or their mother. (theBreaker.news has chosen to obscure the children’s faces from a Crook campaign ad.)
Crook gained international media attention when he went public about his dispute with the child protection department on his 5 Kids 1 Condo blog on the first day of school in September 2017.
A two-day trial in Vancouver last September heard the other side of the story.
Kelleher wrote that a social worker found that Crook’s children and their mother, who has joint custody of the children, both had safety concerns despite Crook training the children to take the bus and equipping them with a cell phone and location tracker.
Crook’s children were aged 5, 7, 8, 9 and 10 in March 2017 when the Ministry acted on a mandatory report under the Child, Family and Community Service Act that the children were in need of protection. The children were riding public transit alone from Crook’s Yaletown condo to a North Vancouver school near their mother’s home during periods of time when Crook had custody.
“The Ministry, following its policies, assessed the report, interviewed the children and the parents, considered the family’s circumstances and sought to work collaboratively with the petitioner to address safety concerns,” Kelleher wrote.
A child protection social worker phoned Crook’s former wife, the children’s mother and joint guardian, to obtain Crook’s phone number. She learned that Crook’s ex-wife was uncomfortable with the children riding the bus alone.
The social worker relied on the Canada Safety Council Guidelines that recommend parents not allow a child to stay at home alone before age 10 and, even then only if the child is mature enough. Crook agreed with the Ministry to not allow the children to ride the bus without a “responsible and dedicated” adult present until further direction from a social worker. The report found Crook failed to see the safety concerns around letting young children ride the bus on their own. The social worker was otherwise complimentary of Crook’s fathering skills.
“There is evidence of a healthy relationship between Mr. Crook and the children,” the report said. “Mr. Crook is interactive and engaging with the children and the children’s disclosures about him were all positive.”
Crook sought an administrative review of the June 2017 decision. The original letter was deemed problematic because it precluded further assessment which could lead to more freedom for the children as they mature.
But, Kelleher’s ruling cited a May 9, 2018 letter from the Ministry to Crook that said his seven-year-old daughter told a social worker how she feared riding the bus without an adult.
“During the interview, she also told the social worker she thought it was too much responsibility for her 10-year-old brother,” the letter said. “All four of your older children told the social worker that they get into frequent arguments and fight with one another. Without an adult to intervene, that fighting could escalate and a child could get hurt.”
Moreover, none of the children was able to say what to do in the event of an emergency or unsafe situation on the bus.
That letter also said the Ministry supports building independence in children and conceded there is no law that prevents children being left alone, provided they are not left in danger. But the Ministry also found more concerns about Crook’s choices.
The children’s mother, it said, “reported that she did not agree with your plan for them to ride the bus unsupervised and felt that the children were not able to keep themselves safe on the bus. She also expressed general concern with the lack of supervision of the children while in your care.
“TransLink clarified that on public transit the bus driver does not assume responsibility for supervising any children and cannot account for the actions of other transit passengers who could pose a risk to those children.”
While Kelleher found the first decision flawed, he deemed the Ministry’s May 9, 2018 decision “both reasonable and correct.
“On any standard of review, it is not assailable,” Kelleher ruled.
Crook, a video game and app consultant, ran a GoFundMe campaign that raised $42,501 for the constitutional challenge. He announced his court petition against the government in a news release just in time for advance voting in the October 2018 civic election. The strategy failed to catapult Crook to victory. The independent candidate finished 25th in the race for one of the 10 city council seats, with 17,392 votes.
Crook was a Vision Vancouver campaign volunteer in 2014 but, in early 2018, announced he would seek the NPA nomination for city council. He left the NPA when the party board rejected the mayoral nomination of lobbyist and 2017-elected councillor Hector Bremner.
Crook raised $20,891.65 for his political campaign, including $1,200 donations from high-profile condo developers Ian Gillespie and Ryan Beedie.
Crook is a co-founder of the pro-development industry lobby group Abundant Housing Vancouver. The group of NDP and Liberal-aligned pro-density activists wants city council to abolish single-family housing in favour of apartment blocks and towers, and includes several members who do not live in City of Vancouver. Last November, Crook appeared in Victoria at an Urban Development Institute-sponsored event with Sonja Trauss, leader of the San Francisco pro-density campaign that inspired AHV.
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