Derek and Frances Baars. Courtesy of the Baars family

Peter Stockland: There is nothing silly about this bunny tale

  • March 15, 2018

Something’s topsy-turvy when a Canadian Christian couple must go to court to clear their names because they refused to lie on the State’s orders.

And the world is surely upside down when major media outlets treat the resulting court decision as a whimsical silly billy story of fundamentalist tomfoolery because the couple in question refused to tell their foster children the Easter Bunny is real.

What happened to Derek and Francis Baars in March 2016 was anything but whimsical or silly. As Justice A. J. Goodman wrote in his ruling released March 6, it was a serious violation of their Charter rights to freedom of religion and freedom of expression. Worse, those violations occurred, as the 61-page Ontario Superior Court judgment emphasizes, in the privacy of their own home.

Worst of all was the smearing of the Baars’ good name at least in part because of a State agent’s apparent animus toward their Christian faith.

It was bad enough when the Hamilton Children’s Aid Society seized two little girls from the Baars who were providing them foster care two years ago. But because of that seizure, the Baars were effectively barred from providing foster care again. A major reason they went to court, and this has largely been overlooked in the reporting, was to have that defamatory prohibition overturned.

Indeed, Justice Goodman ordered any file about the Baars in the records of the Hamilton Children’s Aid Society must acknowledge that the decision to close their home to foster care violated their Charter rights.

“(S)hould there be any inquiry to the Society into the Baars’ suitability by any other organization entrusted with the statutory care of children, the Society shall fully apprise that agency about this (legal) ruling,” he wrote.

In other words, the Baars were wronged. The Society must make it right. It must also wear goat horns for acting in “bad faith,” for an “improper purpose,” in a manner that was “unreasonable, arbitrary and discriminatory.” Such judicial language has nothing to do with fuzzy wuzzy fictional characters. In fact, Justice Goodman was adamant in the preamble to his ruling that “it is not about whether parents or their guardians ought to promote the practice of advising young children about Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.”

It was about the protected right of the Baars to refuse to lie when ordered to do so by an agent of the State. It was about that agent entering their home and pressuring them to say things that violated their Christian beliefs, even trying to force them to speak when they chose silence over falsehood.

A small but crucial digression: I actually do fiercely believe in the power, nay the love, of storytelling for children. I raised my own children in a house full of imaginative stories, as I was raised. My mother was one of the great story weavers in any circle she joined. I still have from the wall of her kitchen a painting of an old hobo. She said he was her first boyfriend named Sam and had no teeth because he ate too much candy. I still, at times, suspect Tom Thumb might just possibly live in my refrigerator to turn the light on and off. My Christian faith is the faith of Bible stories read in childhood as galvanizing stories about the real world, as acts of sacred imagining.

Obviously, not everyone agrees with that approach, as the Baars do not. Profoundly Protestant, they believe in strict delineation of truth and falsity. 

For that, they were pressured by the State, emotionally wounded by seizure of their foster children and, until Justice Goodman’s ruling, effectively blacklisted from opening their home to the care and love of others. They were, there is no truer way to say it, horribly victimized.

Yet now, with justice having been delivered in court, they’ve become the butt of jokes about their silly billy fundamentalism, wrapped in reportage of incredulity that anyone would refuse to tell children the Easter Bunny is real. Their Christian refusal to lie at the State’s command is upheld as a sign of how out of step with the world they are.

Let we who share their faith, if not their approach, applaud them for insisting on walking upright in a world turned upside down.

(Stockland is publisher of and a senior fellow with Cardus.)

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