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Requirement to say ‘Easter Bunny is real’ violated couple’s charter rights: court

Couple argued telling children in their care the character was real violates religious beliefs

A couple’s charter rights were violated when a children’s aid society closed the pair’s foster home over their refusal to tell two young girls the Easter Bunny is real, an Ontario court has ruled.

Frances and Derek Baars, who describe themselves as a Christian couple with “strong religious faith,” took the Children’s Aid Society of Hamilton to court in April 2017, about a year after the girls in their care — aged three and five — were taken away and their foster home was closed.

The couple said the Easter Bunny was at the core of the dispute and argued telling children in their care the character was real was a violation of their religious beliefs — a position Superior Court Judge A.J. Goodman agreed with.

“There is ample evidence to support the fact that the children were removed because the Baars refused to either tell or imply that the Easter Bunny was delivering chocolate to the Baars’ home,” Goodman wrote in a decision released Tuesday. “I am more than satisfied that the society actions interfered substantially with the Baars’ religious beliefs.”

Court heard that CAS support worker Tracey Lindsay had visited the Baars and acknowledged that the girls looked well cared for in all respects.

However, the Baars argued Lindsay told them it was part of their duty as foster parents to teach the girls about the Easter Bunny, court documents show.

The Baars told Lindsay they intended to hide chocolate eggs and have the girls find them on Easter and play other games, but didn’t plan not to speak to the children about the Easter Bunny, unless the girls specifically asked questions about the character, documents said.

The CAS contended Lindsay “never asked (the Baars) to lie or betray their faith.”

Goodman found the Baars did try to have the children enjoy holidays such as Easter and Christmas.

“There is sufficient evidence to assert that the Baars did, indeed, attempt to preserve the children’s enjoyment of the holidays, even of they were not able, pursuant to their religious beliefs, to positively perpetuate the existence of the fictitious characters that are associated with those holidays,” Goodman wrote.

Reached at the couple’s Edmonton home, Derek Baars said they are “very thankful” for the judge’s decision.

“Many Christians have been praying for us and so behind the actions of the judge, for which we’re very thankful, we see the hand of God to direct him in the judgment,” Baars said, adding they hope the decision will be helpful for other Christians hoping to foster or adopt children.

Baars said they are trying to adopt a child and hope the ruling will aid in that process.

In light of the Baars’ desire to be adoptive or foster parents, Goodman ordered the Hamilton CAS to ”fully apprise” any agency inquiring about the couple’s suitability of the ruling.

Dominic Verticchio, executive director of the Hamilton CAS, said he hadn’t read the decision and couldn’t comment on it directly, but said the CAS could have handled things better in its dealings with the Baars.

At the time the court action was launched he had said that staff and foster parents were expected to put their “personal beliefs and values aside” when caring for children who are coming from “different settings.”

Verticchio said Wednesday that the CAS has made changes in the way it deals with foster parents in the wake of the Baars case.

Peter Cameron, The Canadian Press

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