Alienation and Family Reflections Reunification Camp – S. (N.) v N. (C.)
In this case, the Applicant mother claimed the Respondent father alienated her from their children. To remedy the alienation, she sought an order for one child, ASN, be taken to attend the Family Reflections Reunification Camp. She also wanted the father to be required to comply with all the program’s requirements.
Justice Howden, the judge overseeing this motion, had previously ordered that ASN attend the Reunification program for one-week. This original order was made under the impression that the program was only a week long, with a follow-up by ASN’s therapist, and would result in an up-to-date report from which the court would use in its review of the custody order.
When more information surfaced, it came to light that the reunification camp was a year long process that started with the week-long participation. The Program Director also had a very broad scope to make decisions that effectively allowed her determine the entire process and after-care services. Additionally, there was a distressing lack of independent peer-reviewed research regarding the success and effectiveness of the Program and those of its kind.
Taking into account these facts, Justice Howden adamantly rejected the mother’s motion. He characterized the motion as a request to substitute the court’s due process and therapeutic orders with a program that was not certain to succeed or have any positive effect. Such a substitution would be wholly contrary to the child’s best interest.
Therefore, while Justice Howden was sympathetic to the mother’s concerns and desire to take action, his duty as a judicial officer to guard the welfare of children took priority. In line with other similar cases, Justice Howden was unwilling to entrust the child to a long term program without some evidence of effectiveness beyond the program’s own claims, especially since the program overstepped the court’s own process of review.