As the Seasons Change

Dealing with the loss of a child and grief is a complex deal. Every situation is unique but there are certainly common elements. For me personally, I find weekend mornings are a time I think about Teagan often. I loved waking up and wondering where to find the kids playing together as they always would be. However, even more than weekends what really hits home is the changing of the seasons.

As you put away clothes and bring out the next set of gear you inevitably run into Teagan’s clothes, pictures and toys. In Canada, the seasons can be very distinct so there is lots of work to do. The process causes you to remember, reflect and more often than not cry. I find I often procrastinate on preparing for the changes now, whereas before I was always somebody who got an early start on the process.
On Teagan’s Facebook page you can see pictures of Teagan with her brothers as they spend time in Niagara Falls when her little brother was just a baby – https://www.facebook.com/TeagansArmy/
When Teagan was with her brothers you always knew she would have a smile on her face. Teagan’s smile would still be here today in not for the failings of many aspects of our family protection systems. People knew she was at risk and did not speak, people lied about her biological mother being a good mother, a judge ordered her back to live with her killer, relatives chose to ignore the situation rather than risk upsetting her biological mother, Doctors wrote assessments without any attempt to get facts, a teacher at Rosemary Heights did the same, and children’s aid was really a non-factor even after the killer attempted suicide. Where was Teagan in all of this? Without a voice…and clinging to the times she had peace and sanity with her brothers in Ottawa.

Now we have to change that and over the coming months, we will be releasing some short videos on what we hope to accomplish and why. Of course, the person who killed Teagan goes to trial next June and must be held accountable for taking the life of an innocent child. We hope the justice system will see through the desperate lies to avoid justice that is sure to come (and in fact were attempted often to try and alienate Teagan from her family).
As a final note for those who are dealing with the challenges of grief I highly recommend http://www.whatsyourgrief.com as a very active blog with very good content.

Why?

Just a few short years ago Teagan’s baby brother Jack was sleeping and as usual, his big sister Teagan gently rubbing his arm – it was so amazing when she was living with us in Ottawa. It was the best time of our lives for everyone in the family including sweet Teagie. Now she is dead and we wonder each day what could have been different? and how could we have prevented it? and why did our system have her in the hands of the person who would then kill her?

She was safe, happy, in school, on a soccer team and carefree; yet less than 2 years later she was lifeless in the trunk of her biological mother’s car. Sadly a broken system including Madam Justice Wedge of the BC Supreme Court ended that situation with a callous attitude, broken procedures, faulty assumptions, poor coordination and a healthy mix of professional indifference.
A starting point is a focus on two simple values upon which I would hope we can all agree…
1. Responsibility – we all have a responsibility to provide children with a safe home and support children who are at risk.
2. Accountability – governments, professionals and criminals in the system must be held accountable for their actions.
We have to do better and now is the time.

Happy Birthday Teagan

Happy Birthday Teagan! We think about you every day and you will always live on in our hearts and actions…so incomprehensible that she only had 8 of them. Teagan was a special kid who cared more about others than she did about herself.

Yet again today there was news about a terrible BC court decision (in the same city) that cost a child his life (read Christie Blatchford column in the National Post). We have to do better for these beautiful children who live in rich countries but suffer bitter ends. There are many good people working hard in this area including the B.C.’s Representative for Children and Youth, Ontario Child Advocate and our MPP Lisa MacLeod. But we need more politicians and professionals to join this effort so please speak to your representatives about supporting children’s rights and our mission – http://www.teagansvoice.com/mission

Today we will remember and celebrate the beauty, empathy, humour and love of Teagan. But collectively we have a long way to go where the individual human rights of children are respected and all children live, grow, and are nurtured in protective and loving home environments regardless of family status, gender, ethnicity or income. The mission of Teagan’s Voice is to drive change to prevent violence against children and support the victims’ siblings when tragedy occurs. We may never finish the job but we will never stop trying.

Leadership Requires Awareness

Tomorrow I will be at the White House in Washington, DC for the arrival ceremony of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. It will be another opportunity to share Teagan’s story with many of the people who influence policy in North America.

It is critical that our leaders understand the challenges that parents, caregivers, relatives, child welfare workers, teachers, lawyers, judges, police officers and others face when trying to protect children at risk. At the core of these challenges is a lack of respect for children’s human rights.

It is tempting and easy to blame groups or single out people when failure occurs but real change requires that we look at the laws, procedures and practices that led up to these devastating and tragic events. The sad reality is there is not a single point of failure in the system but rather that the system is a failure.

Teagan would not want a ‘band-aid’ from her Dad – she would demand a solution. We believe the way forward involves…

1) Professional Duty of Reporting Child Welfare Situations: we need accountability to eliminate professional indifference and act on the warning signs that are almost always present.

2) Legal Representation for Children in Family Court: We live in a system of rule of law and until Children have their own seat at that table their human rights can never be respected.

3) Appointment of a Federal Children’s Advocate: It’s an extremely complex environment with multiple jurisdictions that requires National coordination and passion from within the system.

Lastly, I think we need to start this process with a comprehensive review of the overall system by experts, outsiders, victims and legislators. Change does not happen naturally and our desire to band-aid solutions has led to a very leaky ship. I think it would be very thoughtful to keep the quote below in mind as we move forward…

“If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it.” – Albert Einstein

Privacy vs Security

Privacy versus security is dominating the news this week with the Apple versus FBI driving headlines. However, this issue is not new and companies trying to find the right balance between security and privacy has been going on for decades. Let me start by saying that this is a very important debate with no “right” answer just different approaches based on your political philosophy.

The San Bernardino terrorism angle makes is very emotional but we must be careful to evaluate the whole issue in context, taking into account the long-term consequences. Also before you decide to cast Apple as a hero or a Saint you should keep in mind that Microsoft has been ‘going to bat’ for individual privacy rights for many years.

http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2014/06/28/the-privacy-week-that-was/

On a more personal note, this issue has relevance to the trial of Teagan’s killer. We know that Apple devices were a part of Teagan’s homicide investigation and getting access to evidence very likely could have been impacted by passwords and encryption. So do I wish that Government could have simple access to our personal computing devices? The person responsible for the death of my beautiful 8-year-old daughter could benefit and there is nothing I want more than to see justice for Teagan. So it feels strange to say but the answer is not at any cost…we have rule of law that pertains to the physical world and now we must strike the right balance in the digital world.

I don’t think it makes sense for any Government to order a private company to create a product that could lead to a massive privacy risk for the entire population of users (whether that risk in manifested through Government or criminal sources). You can certainly argue to other side and frankly, I do believe that this public discussion needs to continue so it can guide policy and legislative decisions.

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” ― Benjamin Franklin