A 7-year-old girl scalded to death in unclear circumstances. A mother under the absolute yoke of her in-laws. The DPJ who abdicates despite worrying alarm signals. An exceptional case of neglect ended Thursday with the imposition of a lenient sentence on the mother of the victim.
Early January 2021. It’s a shock in the Chomedey district, in Laval. A 7-year-old girl is found dead. She is badly burned over 70% of her body. If at the start, the mother is singled out, being even accused of criminal negligence causing death, the investigation revealed that she had not injured her daughter, quite the contrary. In fact, the mother was herself a victim.
Who inflicted such horrible injuries on the little girl? Could she have scalded herself in such an extreme way? The judgment does not shed light on the ultimate culprit, since a patriarch of the family imposed the “law of silence” on everyone, in front of the police moreover.
The role played by Fatima*, the niece of the victim’s father, is particularly disturbing. The judge even concluded that this young woman “would have played a predominant role” in the girl’s death. In addition, the victim’s little sister confided that Fatima poured buckets of hot water on her and her sister to punish them. The survivor was terrorized by Fatima. She was never charged.
The mother, she pleaded guilty last February to having failed to provide the things necessary for the life of her daughter, when she was in need. The Crown was asking for a sentence of 2 years less a day in prison. Citing the “unique and exceptional” circumstances of the case, Judge Yvan Poulin sentenced her on Thursday to a suspended sentence and two years probation.
“The events are sad and heartbreaking. They particularly highlight the dismay of [the mother] in the face of the serious mental health problems from which her daughter suffered. As well as the serious influence exerted by certain people around him who had for all practical purposes taken charge of the situation without Madame being able to really intervene, ”sums up Judge Poulin.
Arriving in Canada as part of an arranged marriage with an older man, the accused was under the almost complete control of her husband’s family, who worked abroad. The judge also insists on the “unhealthy” and “toxic” family climate within this family from Central Asia who lived in two houses nearby.
It is in this context that the victim presents serious behavioral problems from an early age. In the summer of 2019, she even talks about killing her 3-year-old little sister. She sleeps with scissors under her pillow and says she enjoys hurting herself. The mother tries to get help, but cannot talk about it with her community as it is frowned upon. Experts make many diagnoses of mental health problems. The niece Fatima then plays a leading role in the education of the children.
During the pandemic, the girl’s condition deteriorated. She self-harms with her nails, bangs her head violently against the walls to the point of making holes and tears her hair. The girl begins to hit her mother, with Fatima’s “agreement”. The mother is so tormented that her face is covered with bruises. An acquaintance observes the little girl violently punching her mother in the store, under the eyes of Fatima.
The mother was under such a yoke that her own daughter forced her to shut herself up in her room. “This was so because of the extremely unhealthy dynamic that had been gradually established by [Fatima] and some other family members,” noted the judge.
In September 2020, the little girl returns to regular school, since she cannot join a specialized class due to confinement. But it’s a fiasco. She tears her hair out and bangs her head on the floor. It is impossible to educate her concludes the director. It was at this time that the DPJ became involved in the case.
A first meeting is held with the mother and Fatima. The DYP finds no element of negligence, although the worker notes that the little girl forces her mother to isolate herself in her room and refuses her to socialize with strangers. They are referred to the CLSC.
In mid-October, a social worker noted that the girl was in “major malfunction and that it was impossible to send her to school”. However, a week later, the DYP closes the report file since the CLSC has taken charge of the file and the mother wants to get involved. The little girl will die scalded two months later.
In a sordid crescendo, the violence increases. Released from psychiatric hospitalization, the little girl multiplies the attacks on her mother when she does not follow the rules imposed by her daughter. Again under the influence of the influential Fatima.
It is therefore in this context of extreme oppression that the mother relies “entirely” on Fatima for the care of her daughter. The mother spends her days in her room to avoid provoking her daughter’s anger. The judge thus evokes the “mental exhaustion” of the accused.
On December 31, 2020, the mother found her daughter’s bloodstained sweater in the sink. Fatima asks him to get bandages from the pharmacy. When she sees her daughter, she observes a large cut or redness on her lower back. She then leaves Fatima to treat her daughter. The next day, Fatima told him to go back and buy more bandages.
Confined for two days, the mother does not see her daughter during this period. On January 2, Fatima shows him a photo of her daughter’s face, all red, and tells him that the child caused the burn herself in the shower. Fatima asks her not to go see her daughter to avoid a crisis.
The next day, Fatima brings the little girl to the mother’s room. His face is “completely red-brown”. She is no longer breathing. The members of the family disembark on the spot. At 911, the mother is asked to give word of mouth to her daughter. However, his jaw is already rigid and his body, cold. The time of his death is not specified in the judgment.
It is then the omerta in the family, while Fatima blames the mother and launches many lies. Only the stories of the surviving children thus lift the veil on the evil of Fatima. Thus, the little sister confides that she was scalded by her. When she told her grandfather about it, he told her to keep quiet to avoid prison for Fatima and her sister.
Many mitigating factors militate in favor of the mother, concludes the judge. Thus, it was under “undue family pressure” that she abdicated her parental responsibilities in favor of Fatima. Moreover, the mother believed in Fatima’s good intentions and was unaware of the nature and extent of her daughter’s burns. Her criminal liability – much reduced – is limited to the fact that she did not sufficiently verify the extent of her daughter’s injuries.
Since then, the mother has cut ties with her in-laws, works full time and visits her other children with the agreement of the DPJ, concludes the judge.
Me Karine Dalphond represented the public prosecutor, while Me Kaven Morasse defended the accused.