It’s rare to read about the Easter Bunny in a court ruling—it’s even more of an anomaly to read it in a ruling centred on the Canadian Charter of Freedoms.
In a decision handed down by an Ontario Court earlier this week, Judge A.J. Goodman ruled that a couple who had three girls they were fostering taken away had their charter rights violated. The couple, Frances and Derek Baars, are devout Catholics and the children they were fostering were taken away in 2016 by the Children's Aid Society of Hamilton after a dispute with the agency.
At the heart of the disagreement? The Easter Bunny.
The Baars argued that because of their religious devotion they didn’t want to pretend that things like Santa and the Easter Bunny were real and didn’t want to lie to the children. That explanation didn’t sit well with a CAS officer who—after admitting the girls looked well cared for—effectively ordered the couple to tell their children about the Easter Bunny and when they didn’t comply the children were removed from their care and their foster home effectively shut down.
To make matters even more of a bummer, according to court documents, the Baars were planning to hide chocolate and play games on Easter, just not tell them about the Bunny unless they asked. In an affidavit Frances Baar described having the girls taken away from them as “deeply painful” and that the couple continues to have a picture of the girls on their fridge.
The Baars filed a suit against the CAS in April of 2017—a year after the girls were taken away from them—with the support of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms. In it, they argued that their charter freedoms of conscience, religion and expression were violated. The court agreed.
"There is ample evidence to support the fact that the children were removed because the Baars refused to either tell or imply that the Easter Bunny was delivering chocolate to the Baars' home," reads the ruling. "I am more than satisfied that the society actions interfered substantially with the Baars' religious beliefs."
In a 62-page decision, the court agreed with the Baars, writing that the young girls had already faced a lot of turmoil in their lives and had finally found some consistency with the Baars, something the CAS interfered with.
“By taking the children away on such short notice, the Society took that away from them and contributed to the turmoil these children faced in their short lives,” reads the decision. “As Lindsay [the CAS officer] writes in one of her case notes, ‘is it more important to have the Easter bunny or permanency?’”
“The Society very clearly chose the Easter Bunny.”
The Baars, who now live in Edmonton, told the Canadian Press they still want to adopt and foster children and hope the court’s decision will make that easier.
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This article originally appeared on VICE CA.