11/17/2014 06:00 EST | Updated 01/17/2015 05:59 EST

Batshaw exposed children to woman convicted of human trafficking

CBC Montreal Investigates has learned Batshaw Youth and Family Centres temporarily placed two Quebec children in a home associated with a person convicted of human trafficking.

The youth protection agency serving English Montreal removed the two children in question from the home of their mother after a complaint about her current partner and lodged them with their father. It then found out he had ties to the former convict.

Quebec law prohibits CBC from identifying anyone linked to youth protection court cases.

However, CBC News can tell you the person in question pleaded guilty to human trafficking in the Outaouais region a few years ago. The case involved a situation in which multiple teenagers were chained in a basement and forced into prostitution.

The woman is out on parole after serving part of her sentence.

Background check done after placement

In court testimony, CBC News heard a childcare worker at Batshaw explain that the children were removed from their mother's home on the evening of Monday, Nov. 3.

The worker also told the court last week that the mother has admitted her current partner has struck one of the two children at least twice.

The youth protection agency said it ordered a criminal background check on people associated with the children’s new environment shortly after they were placed with the father.

Batshaw's worker said the check was done as quickly as possible after their placement.

The worker said the children’s father was contacted immediately after that check was done and told the ex-convict had to stop being around the children, or the children would not be allowed to stay at his home.

However, the worker also told the court that this conversation only happened on Friday, Nov. 7 – four days after the children were placed with their father.

The worker testified that the agency contacted the former convict’s parole officer who assured it the former convict was no longer anywhere near the children by the weekend.

Background checks conducted as necessary: Batshaw

Batshaw would not comment on this specific case, citing the Youth Protection Act. 

It did say emergency situations may require its workers to take children away from one parent and place them with the other without conducting background checks beforehand.

Madeleine Bérard, the agency's director for youth protection, also said background checks are not a given.​

Bérard said Batshaw may choose to conduct such checks if it has any reason to believe the children may be in an unsafe environment.

Once checks are done, and Batshaw finds out someone in the children’s surroundings has a criminal record, it then assesses whether that record endanger the children before it acts.

"If you have a person who has a past record for shoplifting, will it impact on the safety of the child?" asked Bérard. "It has to do with your capacity to keep a child safe."

If it decides the criminal record indeed could spell trouble for the children, Batshaw does not have the power to force the person with a record to stop visiting the place, Bérard said.

"The only person we can move or remove is the child himself," Bérard said.

She said the agency may ask the parent of the children to demand the person with a criminal record stop showing up. Its only recourse is to threaten to remove the children.

Bérard also said Batshaw may drop in at the home for "unannounced visits" to ensure the parent is complying with such a request. Inspectors would then be looking for any tell-tale signs of the person’s presence.

"The parent tells us that the person has left the home, but they still have their clothes lying around," she said, as an example.

In this case, Batshaw has now placed the children in a foster home as a temporary measure, away from either of the two parents.

A judge has asked youth protection authorities to decide how often each parent may visit the children. The judge has also ordered both the mother’s partner and the woman convicted of human trafficking to stop seeing the children.

CBC Montreal Investigates

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