WINNIPEG - Two parents accused of raising their children to be racists had Nazi flags in their home and taught their kids to hate visible minorities, a witness testified at a child custody hearing Thursday.
The girl at the centre of the case shocked her aunt when, at the age of four, she revealed her family's beliefs during an otherwise pleasant conversation.
"She said to me, 'you know auntie, we don't like black people ... because they hurt people and they steal things and they hurt children'," the aunt told the hearing.
Manitoba Child and Family Services is trying to gain permanent custody of the girl and her younger brother because of concerns about their home environment. It's alleged the two were neglected, exposed to racist teachings and were in a home where drugs and alcohol were being abused.
The children were seized last year after the girl showed up at her elementary school with white supremacist symbols and slogans drawn on her skin in permanent marker.
No one involved can be identified under Manitoba law.
The aunt testified Thursday that the girl was well cared for by her mother until the mother met the man involved in the custody case. The couple lived in squalor, the aunt said, and the once-happy, healthy girl suddenly appeared with blisters on her feet, inadequate clothing and other problems.
"She was like a waif," the aunt said. "It was so unlike how I had seen (the mother) care for her before."
The aunt echoed testimony from another family member who said the mother left town with her new boyfriend in 2004, leaving the sad, lonely girl with relatives.
"Her heart was a broken. She cried every night and just sobbed a lot."
The couple later returned and lived in a home where there were Nazi flags, the aunt said. They moved to an apartment when the mother became pregnant with a boy.
The mother has denied raising her children as racists. She does not have a lawyer and hasn't attended the hearing so far, but plans to be in court next month when the custody hearing continues.
The stepfather, who is the biological father of the boy, is fighting for custody, arguing his constitutional right to freedom of expression is being violated.
The proceedings were delayed briefly Thursday when the lawyer for Manitoba Child and Family Services asked the judge to ban Global Television from the courtroom. The network had mistakenly broadcast images of a court document that contained the names of the parents, and CFS argued it was a violation of the province's confidentiality law.
A lawyer for Global apologized and said the mistake would not happen again. Judge Marianne Rivoalen allowed reporters from the network to remain in the courtroom, but barred them from broadcasting any more images of court documents.