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Canadian Skin Fights to Keep Kids

A Winnipeg court heard final arguments regarding an 8-year-old girl and her younger half-brother who were seized from their white supremacist parents.

After weeks of testimony, a Winnipeg court heard final arguments Sept. 25 regarding a Manitoba Child and Family Services request for permanent guardianship of an 8-year-old girl and her younger half-brother who were seized from their white supremacist parents in March 2008.

Child and Family Services officials took custody of the children after the girl showed up for school with a swastika and racist messages drawn on her arms and legs in permanent marker.

Social workers testified that when they interviewed the girl, she used racial slurs while calmly and graphically describing how to whip black people to death using a ball and chain.

Officials learned that the parents were the founders of a pro-racist skinhead online forum whose members called themselves "Aryan Foot Soldiers" and professed hatred for Jews, blacks, and indigenous Canadians. The forum's stated goal was to attract and organize skinheads interested in "looking out for each other and helping to cleanse the area we live in," according to documents presented in court.

Forum postings made reference to the parents in the case proudly watching their children "goose-step" through a shopping mall.

The stepfather testified in court that he views himself as a skinhead and is opposed to interracial relationships. He admitted teaching his stepdaughter to use racial slurs and telling her that non-whites should be forced to go back to their own countries. But he vigorously argued that Child and Family Services violated his right "to expound and support his white supremacy views."

Manitoba law protects the identities of all those involved in the case. High-profile media coverage has provoked a national debate over the rightfulness of the government assuming custody of children due to the ideology of their parents. Unlike the United States, with its constitutional guarantees of free expression, Canada has criminal laws that penalize "hate speech."

Child and Family Services attorneys sought to broaden the focus of the case beyond the issue of free speech versus child welfare. They brought in a psychologist who testified that both parents are binge drinkers who exhibit anti-social tendencies and are ill equipped to provide the children with a stable, caring environment.

A ruling in the case is expected later this year or in early 2010.