If any 'good' comes from Jeffrey Baldwin's death it will be from the inquest called by Ontario's chief coronerBy MARK BONOKOSKI
The Grandparents Grimm -- custodial monsters Elva Bottineau and Norman Kidman -- will appear in court again May 17 to learn how long the jailer's key will be thrown away before they can apply for the unthinkable prospect of parole following their convictions for second-degree murder.
Their barbarism has been well documented in recent days, of course, despite words falling short of fully describing what is surely indescribable for even the best of writers.
When their 5-year-old grandson, Jeffrey Baldwin, died from the brutality and starvation they had inflicted upon him, for example, his weight was that of a 10-month-old baby -- his years, according to Ontario Justice David Watt, "eked out" in the "miserable existence" of a locked room described as a "dungeon" that was cold, urine-soaked and coated with the filth of human feces.
There is no mind's-eye picture that could possibly conjure the reality of that scenario -- unless, God forbid, a photograph of the poor boy's wasted corpse was able to flash on some screen in the psyche of us all.
Until then, it must hopefully remain unimaginable.
INQUEST IS NEEDED
If there is any good that can come from this horror, and the word "good" is used because of the lack of any other, it is that Ontario's chief coroner, Dr. Barry McLellan, has ordered an inquest into young Jeffrey's death -- with the focus clearly centred on the Catholic Children's Aid Society.
And rightly so.
For it was that agency -- a taxpayer-funded, social safety-net of guardianship -- that handed the boy over to his eventual killers when a simple background check would have uncovered a high degree of child abuse in that family.
In 1998, when Jeffrey's own parents were being investigated for child abuse, and he and his siblings were seized, the CCAS never opposed Bottineau's bid for legal custody of her daughter's children -- meaning they never checked their files to learn that, as a teenage mother, Bottineau herself was convicted of assault causing bodily harm in the 1970 pneumonia death of her first child, Eva, who was also found to have suffered multiple fractures.
And then there was Bottineau's husband, Norman Kidman, whose documented history has him convicted of the extreme beatings of two of Bottineau's children from a previous marriage -- another record easily accessed by the CCAS.
Yet into those abusive arms young Jeffrey Baldwin was tossed, as well as three other siblings.
Following the trial, Paul Dimitriadis -- husband of Jeffrey's paternal grandmother, Susan -- minced no words when it came to the CCAS which, according to reports, backed Bottineau and Kidman in barring the two from even visiting their grandchildren ... a visit which, in retrospect, might have led to young Jeffrey being rescued from their clutches.
But this was never to happen.
"I believe the Catholic Children's Aid Society lives in a big castle with high walls," he said. "And when they come out, they are guarded by pit bull terriers called lawyers, who are ready to tear anyone apart (who) try to question them."
And he, in many ways, is not far from being wrong.
Not a week goes by that I do not get one or two e-mails, and just as many calls, from a parent or a grandparent with what they see as critical concerns regarding one children's aid society or another -- concerns they want to see go public.
And this is where the "high walls" come into play. Privacy laws not only prevent names from being used, they are also used as a shield by all CAS to deflect, not only comment, but often even acknowledgement of the case in question.
And this is a dilemma for those in the news business who, after time, often find it easier to walk away from a potential story than face the inevitable dead end of the agency invoking privacy laws as a convenient and effective way to legally cover ass until the story goes away.
And it could have even happened here in the Jeffrey Baldwin case, if not for the chief coroner calling an inquest.
While the vast majority of CAS cases are undoubtedly well handled, the few that are not demand scrutiny.
Perhaps the upcoming inquest into Jeffrey Baldwin's death will find a way to address that concern as an important sidebar issue in the juggling act between privacy and protection.
While it may seem small in the greater scheme of the unfathomable picture of the horror that brought the Grandparents Grimm to trial, what of the case I wrote about a month ago about the Cobourg father who discovered -- through a third party, not the CAS -- that the man living with his ex-wife and their 7-year-old daughter was also the man written up in the local newspaper as being sentenced to "house arrest" for sexually assaulting his teenage stepdaughter's best friend?
Facts being facts, it would seem a simple task to get his daughter out of harm's way.
Surely the Children's Aid would see absurdity in these living arrangements, as well as the inherent danger of a 7-year-old little girl having an admitted sex offender as an authority figure.
But that is not the way it played out.
In fact, the Children's Aid refused to acknowledge that the man in the newspaper convicted of the sexual assault on a teen was the same man now living with his ex-wife and therefore sharing the joint custody of his little girl.
"All I am asking is for one of two things to happen," the girl's father told me back then. "Either give me full custody of my daughter, or get him out of that house."
Neither has happened.
Today, his daughter is still living under the same roof as that convicted sex offender, but it is no longer in Cobourg.
They have packed up and moved because they have supposedly "found God," and the only church where that "God" can be found is apparently nowhere else but Peterborough.
Perhaps the children's aid there will find this odd.
But, then again, likely not.