A video was released this week of a an 11 year old indigenous girl explaining her intention to forego chemotherapy and instead rely on ‘traditional medicines”. Doctors say the child would have an 80% chance of survival if she continued with her treatment; she was 11 weeks into it before deciding to give up. She claims that she saw Jesus Christ, and he told her she’s now healed. Her father is the pastor of a small evangelist church.
The hospital, in accordance with child protection legislation, has informed the Children’s Aid Society of Brant- the ball is now in their hands. Whenever there’s a story featuring an indigenous issues, the radicals, militant unions, and anarchists are never far behind. In this case the story was broke by the Two Row Times; a radical publication managed by former CUPE activist “settler ally” Tom Keefer- one of the key figures in the 2006 Caledonia Grand River Dispute .
There’s often a fine-line between advocacy and exploitation. If the Kevin Annett story has taught us anything, it’s that the radicals are all too often unabashed to cross that line. Today’s story is no different, one opponent of the referral to the Children’s Aid Society has promised war if they try to take the girl away. The TRT were so enthusiastic for new Agitprop, it appears they may have broken child protection laws publishing their story.
It All Comes Down To A (Not So) Simple Test:
While it’s not the rule, it isn’t unheard of for kids and families to give-up during the early stages of chemotherapy, there have been several cases in Canada. Sometimes the decision is based on the pain and suffering of the treatment, others chose to abstain for religious purposes. This child’s situation is not only an example of both, but also a mix of indigenous and Christian beliefs.
Researching previous incidents it appears likely that the Children’s Aid Society will decide to take action. In a 2008 case they went as far as to take a couple’s child into custody. In a 2007 case (where the child was in an Ontario hospital), the Quebec health authority decided not to force the issue- but the child’s life was not yet in danger.
Canadian legislation states that patients have the right to deny treatment. The National Post quoted medical lawyer Mark Handelman saying:
“There is no minimum age to medical treatment. The test for everybody in the province, regardless of age, is ‘Are you capable of making this decision?”
In the girl’s video (which I won’t link for ethical reasons), she reads from a multi-page script explaining how Jesus told her she was healed, and explains that she’s feeling much better after stopping the chemo. It’s totally expected that she’d be feeling better without the treatment’s side-effects, but doctors are insistent that she’s not been cured.If she believes she’s been cured, then it’s likely she would fail the test of being capabile to make her decision. Equally, the fact she believes she’s been communicating with Jesus, is bound to raise some red flags. (Viewers have observed she appears nervous in the video, well-rehearsed, and possibly coached.)
There was a similar case in Alberta in 2002 when a 16-year-old Jehovah’s Witness girl refused blood transfusions that were part of her leukemia treatment. Her family’s religion rejects transfusions because they believe the Bible forbids them from ‘ingesting blood’. The judge’s ruling made a comment that appears relevant to today’s case:
“the life or developmental experience which allowed her to question her faith and/or its teachings, and such experience is an essential step in arriving at a personal level of development such that she could be considered to be a mature minor who had the capacity to refuse medical treatment which was necessary to save her life. Intelligence, thoughtfulness, exemplary behavior and notable academic achievement are not sufficient when the magnitude of the decision faced by a 16-year-old involves a certain risk of death.”
The final decision was that the girl was to force the girl to accept treatment- unfortunately she didn’t survive, she only had a 40-50% chance at the start. Her father, who was against her decision to stop treatment, later filed suit against the Watchtower Society (the JW’s official name) for deliberately misleading his daughter- but the court rejected his case.
The Two Row Times Does The United Nations Twist!
One of the most interesting parts of UN Envoy James Anaya’s recent released report on his visit to Canada was his statement that the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People’s (UNDRIP) doesn’t mean that individual nations have a veto- he worked on the document, so he’s a pretty solid source. Radicals have been sharing misinformation and twisting UNDRIP since it was first introduced.
The TRT’s story makes the bold declaration that any decision to force the girl to accept treatment would be in violation of UNDRIP Articles 10 & 24. The former states that:
“Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories. No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned and after agreement on just and fair compensation and, where possible, with the option of return.”
It’s a big leap in logic to say Article 10 applies to this case. It was written to ensure that indigenous people aren’t subjected to being thrown off of their land, the girl is only being asked to (temporarily) go to the hospital and still has the right to return.
Their interpretation of Article 24 isn’t much better:
“1. Indigenous peoples have the right to their traditional medicines and to maintain their health practices, including the conservation of their vital medicinal plants, animals and minerals. Indigenous individuals also have the right to access, without any discrimination, to all social and health services.
2. Indigenous individuals have an equal right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. States shall take the necessary steps with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of this right.”
The TRT’s argument is that Article 24 gives the girl the right to accept traditional medicines as an alternative to her chemo. What it really says is that she’s allowed to have access to traditional medicines, and that she has the right to access to quality healthcare. Nobody is stopping her from accessing either.
“I don’t think CAS would want to deal with the wrath of First Nations everywhere”:
A story came out in the Hamilton Spectator this morning, quoting indigenous health researcher Dawn Martin-Hill saying that there’ll be hell to pay if the girl is forced into treatment. Martin-Hill was called-in as a negotiator between the girl’s family and the doctors, and has expressed dismay with their decision to call in Children’s Aid- saying that she was “taken aback” by the hospital’s decision to call Children’s Aid (while showing a lack of knowledge about child protection law).
Her threats of retribution were right on-cue with the TRT’s rabble rousing:
“I don’t know if they were aware of the kind of nerve they would be hitting. Now you have warrior societies from one end of the country to the other saying, ‘Please don’t take her because you’re going to be dealing with us.’
And warning authorities saying:
“I don’t think CAS would want to deal with the wrath of First Nations everywhere by trying to take [name removed]”
Martin-Hill is an associate professor at McMaster university’s Faculty of Social Sciences. Curiously, there’s no mention on the university’s profile of her practice as an “indigenous health researcher”.
Did The Two Row Times Break Child Protection Rules?
A few months ago another blogger posted a story about how con-artist Kevin Annett was manipulating the family of a young girl who was taken into Children’s Aid’s care. Like this case, the parents had no objection to their child being named, they did so themselves. About a day after the blogger had posted their story they got an email from a representative of Children’s Aid. He very politely explained to her that, regardless of the parent’s intent, it is not allowed to publish the names (or images) of children whose cases are under their consideration.
Not all publications appear to have been following this rule; the National Post has been, but the Hamilton Spectator didn’t- they TRT broke the story with her name and picture. To be fair, there may be a loophole in that CAS hasn’t officially announced an investigation. That said, considering one is likely to happen, it’s somewhat irresponsible to be publishing her name- something that (if she survives this mess) may come back to haunt the girl later in her life.
Can Traditional Medicine Do the Job?
Ultimately, it’s up to the courts to decide to impose treatment or not; indications are that they will, but what happens if they don’t?
The controversy around traditional medicines is that there’s little evidence to show that they work. That’s not to say that they don’t, it’s just not been proven in a clinical (and documented) setting. Many people are skeptical. One big problem is that the girl’s minders aren’t telling us which traditional medicines they’re using. It would easier to engage in the conversation if they could specify their desired treatment and provide real-life examples where patients with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia have been cured.
In the unlikely chance the courts will let the girl proceed only with traditional medicine, they should at least require medical observation- every step of her treatment should be monitored and recorded. That way, we can all learn something if the treatment works- and, if it doesn’t, we can save other children from potentially harmful treatments.
That said, in the absence of evidence their intended treatment is effective , it seems irresponsible to use her as a guinea pig.
What Happens Next?
If the radicals get their way it looks like we’re in for a fight. The Grand River Dispute got violent, one victim ended up with brain damage in an attack a judge described as “just a notch below culpable homicide”. At the minimum, we can expect lots of self-promotion and another three-ring circus- only, this time it won’t be about an inanimate housing development, but the life of a little girl.
The sarcasm of using this girl’s struggle for political gain is thoroughly unpalatable…