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Kelowna couple who got legal advice from toy lion denied appeal

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November 23, 2018 - 6:30 PM

KELOWNA - A Kelowna couple with a history of erratic and fervently-religious behaviour had their appeal to regain access to their child denied in court today.

In a B.C. Court of Appeal decision today, Nov. 23, the mother (referred to as A.J.) and father (D.K.) appeared unrepresented by a lawyer, hoping to vary a provincial court decision ordering Child, Family, and Community Service to remove the couple's child from their custody for safety reasons. The court upheld the justice's decision, stating that the couple could not show any legal error in the ruling.

The decision noted the couple's strange behaviour during the proceedings. The pair represented themselves, referring to Jesus Christ as their lawyer and spoke in tongues, the court recorded.

The couple's child was removed from their custody nearly two years ago after concerns were raised about the baby's health and welfare. The child may be placed up for adoption.

The court document details how A.J. and D.K. met in 2014, apparently bonding over their mutual interest in Christianity. They married in 2015 and moved throughout B.C. They were noted for their strong religious beliefs and intolerance of differing opinions, even from other Christians. They have tried to purge churches of "evil influences," which typically results in their disinvitation from those churches, according to the decision.

A.J. became pregnant with their child in spring of 2016. She attended a maternity clinic in West Kelowna that supports home births. Around October, a complaint was made to the Ministry of Children and Family Development that D.K. had choked A.J. The wife made allegations (which she now denies) that D.K. grabbed her throat and choked her to stop her from crying. D.K. admitted to a social worker that he grabbed A.J.'s throat and mouth, but he claimed he did not hurt her.

A.J. alleged that D.K. regularly beat her and she said this violence was "spiritual warfare." The court document stated that, during these allegations, A.J. also claimed D.K. grew up in a cult and he believes sexual relations between children should be encouraged.

The Ministry became involved with the family and recommended having the birth in a hospital since A.J. was having difficulties with the maternity clinic. The couple disagreed and decided to have a home birth with no medical assistance, the record shows. Dr. Hautala with the maternity clinic called the Ministry at this time over concerns with A.J.'s mental health.

During the birth in November, A.J.'s parents contacted 911 for emergency assistance. The court document showed that he child was taken to hospital for a health assessment, but A.J. refused any medical analyses for the baby or herself. The Ministry also unsuccessfully tried to assess A.J.'s mental health at this time. Dr. Hautala stated, "the inflexible beliefs of the mother would make her unable to make good decisions for the baby."

The decision stated A.J. refused to give the child standard medical procedures, including hearing tests, blood-sugar testing, eye drops, and vaccinations. A family intervention specialist was assigned to the family over violence and mental health concerns.

After the parents signed a voluntary care agreement, the child was sent to temporary foster parents before being returned to A.J. and D.K. in December. A community support agreement required the pair to abstain from illegal drugs and alcohol, the latter condition allegedly upsetting D.K. A.J. only fed the child breast milk, which resulted in weight loss. Specialists urged the use of formula, but the court document stated A.J. believed the child had to work for her food. The mother also believed formula contained "unhealthy impurities."

The court document details how D.K. secretly fed the formula to the baby, which created friction between the couple. A.J. alleged that D.K. was projecting his addiction onto the baby by allowing her to drink the formula while he was unable to drink alcohol.

Later that month, after a weigh-in showed that the child had lost 3.5 ounces, the baby was removed from the parents' care and returned to foster parents, where it regained weight, the decision says.

The matter was sent to Provincial Court in March 2017 for a protection hearing. The pair declined to participate in a parental capacity agreement.

In April, A.J. emailed a social worker to set up future access dates. She also said, "how filthy and corrupt your job is and the people you work for. I am ashamed for you. It is evil."

In May, the court document states, the couple were arrested for causing a disturbance when they tried to allegedly "cleanse" Emmanuel Church in West Kelowna of evil influences. A.J. did not cooperate with police and rolled on the ground. The parents had a scheduled access visit with their child on this day, but missed it because they were in custody. At this point, the Ministry decided to apply to court so the parents could have no further access to the child.

In August, the trial judge ordered the couple to participate in a parental capacity assessment, but they refused. The judge said they would have no further parenting time until they completed the assessment.

The court document states that throughout the hearing, the couple spoke in tongues to a stuffed lion, claiming it was giving them legal counsel from the Lord. When they cross-examined witnesses, they stated that Jesus Christ was speaking through them. The judge said the couple were not credible witnesses. No formal assessment of their mental health was described in the court document.

The judges made their decision on the protection hearing in October 2017. The couple appealed to the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal before being denied today.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Sean Mott or call (250) 864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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