‘Twitter Mom’ suing government, CFS for millions in damages

The allegations have not been proven in court.

The Indigenous woman behind the “Twitter Mom” handle is suing the Manitoba government and some of its child welfare agencies for allegedly breaking up her family 11 years ago.

Tamara Malcolm, who used the Twitter social media site in 2017 to advocate for her sons’ release from government foster care, is seeking at least $7 million in damages, a copy of the statement of claim obtained by APTN News shows.

Her statement of claim filed in Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench June 4 seeks $5 million in general damages, plus $1 million in punitive damages and another $1 million in aggravated damages. She also seeks the same damages for two of her children.

“I have filed the paperwork to sue the government of Manitoba for the harm they have done to my children and our family,” Malcolm said in a written statement.

“For over 10 long and painful years they kept me and three of my four children apart.”

The allegations have not been proven in court.

(One of Tamara Malcolm’s tweets explaining her lawsuit. APTN)

Malcolm is suing the Canadian and Manitoba governments, All Nations Coordinated Response Network (ANCR), Winnipeg Child and Family Services, West Region Child and Family Services, the CFS authority, Southern First Nations Network of Care and some foster parents.

None of the parties have filed statements of defence.

“We don’t have a lawyer [yet],” said Jim Compton, a spokesman for West Region. “I can’t comment because it’s in the courts.”

A spokesperson for Manitoba Families Minister Heather Stefanson said Stefanson would not comment because the matter is before the courts.

Malcolm’s lawyer, Katherine Hensel, told APTN parents have filed various lawsuits over child welfare issues “with very mixed results.

“There are some legal challenges when bringing a claim,” she said from Toronto.

 

(A supporter on Twitter reacts to news of the lawsuit. APTN)

APTN began covering the story in 2017 when Malcolm, who had three sons in care, started tweeting about developments in her case. Usually parents are too afraid or intimidated to go public.

She said one of the agencies told her they didn’t like it but she did it anyway after an Indigenous Elder advised her to go public.

“I want the system to change,” she said in her written statement. “Families need to be supported in situations where women are the victims of domestic violence.”

Malcolm detailed – in a series of tweets – how her children were apprehended by social workers after she sought medical care at a hospital for an injury to her child caused by domestic violence.

She also listed how many meetings and parenting classes she was forced to attend for more than a decade.

“The woman and her children who are the victims of the abuse should not be the ones who are made to be punished for the crimes committed by the abuser,” she added in her statement.

“The system should have shown compassion for us, instead we were the ones treated as if we had done something wrong.”

READ MORE: ‘Twitter Mom’ gets sons back from foster care

Malcolm immediately cut ties with her abusive partner but the child welfare system robbed her of parenting her children, Hensel said in an interview Tuesday.

“Over the next 11 years, despite promptly separating from the father and making sustained attempts to reunite with her children, Ms. Malcolm found that her efforts to regain care and custody of her children were obstructed by a lengthy pattern of omissions, inaction, and discriminatory and bad faith behavior by the defendants,” the claim alleged.

“The obstruction, intransigence, discrimination, and bad faith committed on the part of the defendants, both individually and systemically, caused Ms. Malcolm’s children to lose their family and each other for most of their respective childhoods and to suffer extreme emotional, physical, and psychological harm. Ms. Malcolm’s resulting inability to prevent that loss and harm has, in turn, caused her enormous grief and anguish.”

In addition, the claim is also seeking financial compensation for her sons, who are alleged to have suffered emotional and physical abuse.

Hensel said the civil claim will likely take many years to work its way through the courts. She sees it as another way Indigenous families can reform a punitive and discriminatory system.

READ MORE: Elder inspired mom to go on Twitter to get kids out of foster care

“You can’t find a more stark example of systemic racism and discrimination than the child welfare system,” added Hensel, who helped Malcolm get her children out of foster care.

“It simply doesn’t happen to other groups of people.”

Malcolm, who lives in Ontario, is remarried with a new partner with whom she has a daughter and runs her own business.

She continues to advocate to reunite other families.

“I have lost friends to suicide because they lost all hope after agency social workers told them they would never get their children back,” Malcolm said in her statement.

“They told me the same thing on several occasions. But I never gave up. Thank goodness my children are together now. We survived. But it’s not good enough to cause such serious damage to a family and walk away without any consequences for their actions.

“This is not just happening to me, but it is still happening to First Nations families across the country. Manitoba must be held accountable for their actions and things must change. This is why I am taking this action…”

 

Investigative Reporter / Winnipeg

Award-winning reporter Kathleen Martens covers western and northern Canada for aptnnews.ca. A veteran of the Brandon Sun, Sun Media and APTN Investigates, she is based in APTN’s head office, specializing in stories about property, women’s rights and community.