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CHILD PROTECTION - Practice and procedure

Thursday, March 07, 2019 @ 8:36 AM  

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Reconsideration of a motion by Jarvis, a third party, for the release of the transcript of evidence given by an assessor at a hearing. There was an ongoing trial in an unrelated child welfare proceeding presided over by a different judge (the JB case). A voir dire was underway in the trial. The qualifications, scope of expertise, credibility, and reliability of the evidence of the assessor who conducted the parenting capacity assessment in that case was being challenged. The assessor allegedly had represented to others, including the court, that she was a clinical psychologist when she might not actually be qualified as such. This assessor had conducted many assessments over the years, including one in this court file. Counsel for the mother in the other court file was of the view that an injustice might have been done to JB and others because of the assessor’s misrepresentation regarding her qualifications. As a person who was neither a party nor lawyer for one in this court file, Jarvis could not gain access to the transcript of evidence given at the trial that took place in this matter. Jarvis’ motion was previously dismissed in its entirety.

HELD: Motion allowed in part. The Court changed its decision and ordered that the transcript of the assessor’s evidence could be provided to the judge in the JB case, the parties participating in the trial and their lawyers, and the children’s lawyers, for use only in that trial and for no other purpose. There was a legitimate need for the transcripts and they would likely be of probative value in the JB trial. Any risk of harm consequent to their release could be minimized to the point of being negligible through terms and conditions. The court had an interest in ensuring that those whom it appointed to conduct assessments were qualified, competent, fair, impartial, and honest. However, it could not be said that the privacy of the child and his parents in this case would be protected if an order was made permitting Jarvis to give a copy of the transcript to others such as the assessor or the College of Psychologists.

Halton Children's Aid Society v. J.T., [2018] O.J. No. 7040, Ontario Court of Justice, V.A. Starr J., January 28, 2019. Digest No. TLD-March42019011