Cancer, Chemo, Kids, and Cannabis

Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting Marco Pedersen and his farther Tim. I wish it had been under better circumstances. Just prior to our introduction, the Children’s Aid Society of Ontario (CAS) intervened in the Pedersen’s medical exploration of alternative treatments for their 18-month-old son, Aiden (pictured left, with Marco), who was diagnosed a few days earlier with leukemia by doctors at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) in Ottawa.

Mr. Pedersen told me about how he “felt lost, confused, and disheartened” over the events that transpired over the week. He learned of the serious state of his son’s health while working with his wife, 20-year-old Erica O’Laney, exploring options for the most optimal manner to address such a serious diagnosis.

He went on to say that he, “never got a copy of the diagnosis, nor offered any other options over and above aggressive chemotherapy treatment.” Mr. Pedersen requested the CHEO doctors not begin the chemotherapy until he could explore all potential options.

When hospital doctors and staff were made aware of the position the Mr. Pedersen was taking they made the decision to involve child protective services (CAS). In compelling video and audio filmed at the hospital the night of (which may be seen here) CAS decided to seize baby Aiden pending an “emergency hearing in front of a judge”. Viewers can see a passive and polite, yet concerned father asking relevant questions while his parental rights were slowly, painfully, and (some would argue) illegally stripped away.

Mr. Pedersen’s father, Tim, previously worked with internationally recognized cannabis activist Rick Simpson, who has demonstrated the effects cannabis has on various types of cancers. The connection between Mr. Pedersen’s father and Simpson seemingly played a role in Mr. Pedersen’s decision to explore all medical options for his son. Mr. Pedersen was raised around the benefits of cannabis as it relates to cancer. He has made his position well known that he intends to stand his ground as a father seeking the best options for his son.

Within days of Aiden’s being diagnosis, CHEO doctors in concert with the CAS opted to take an aggressive and rapid stance in threatening Marco and Erica’s parental rights. The devastation of diagnosis alone would be overwhelming for a young couple, the added stress associated with CHEO and CAS intrusion has clearly put the couple in a state of duress.

On September 12th a temporary order was signed by Justice H.S. Levenson Polowin after an emergency hearing where Mr. Pedersen, Aiden’s grandfather Tim, and attorney Deborah Bennett were present. Also present was a CAS child protection worker who, according to the Pedersens, pressured Erica into agreeing that the state could begin chemo on her baby, a decision made under “extreme duress”. The temporary order, seemingly in reaction to and in concert with the stripping of Marco’s parental rights, grants custody to Erica O’Laney. She has “sole authority to consent to and authorise treatment of her child”, though if Erica were to decide to move Aiden then she is required to inform the CAS. Finally the order sets forth that Marco’s access to Aiden shall be at the discretion of the CAS, and that access shall be “liberal”, however he cannot interfere with the doctors or mothers decisions.

We need remember that parental rights in this country should not be controlled by the state when a family wishes explore options that do not harm the child in question. To grant a father only liberal access to his gravely ill son when he has never previously posed a threat is in and of itself a cruel punishment. In my 20 years of activism I never seen such an abuse of government power. A family is hurting, a father cannot care for his son, and the state has proven once again that it is incapable of an open and honest discourse on alternative treatments with and for the electorate.

As I prepare to visit my own family in Ontario, I am lost in thought over such cases as Aiden’s, yet empowered to sustain the battle for a free and fair market place for all Canadians, especially the children, whose future (and in some cases their very present) depends on the success of our efforts. Like medicinal patients who are “legal”, innocent children and their families remain in the crossfire of prohibition policy.

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