Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Over the past eighteen months I have used this Blog to intensively report on developments relating to Dr. Charles Smith culminating with the recently concluded Goudge Inquiry.

I am now winding up this phase of the Blog - to be replaced eventually by periodic reporting of developments relating to Dr. Smith and related issues as they occur - with an examination of Justice Goudge's findings in the cases reviewed by the Inquiry.

I think it is important to take this closer look at the report in this Blog, because the mainstream media, which has done an admirable job in reporting the inquiry, have gone on to other stories.

Justice Goudge's findings relating to the various cases have been scattered throughout the report.

My approach is to weave together the findings relating to all of the principal actors - so we can get a fuller picture of Justice Goudge's findings as to their conduct;

As set out in an overview report prepared by Commission staff:

Amber was born in Timmins, Ontario on March 13, 1987. Amber was the child of Frances and Richard. Amber died on July 30, 1988, at the age of 16 months at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.

Criminal proceedings were initiated against Amber's 12 year-old babysitter SM. SM was charged with manslaughter on December 15, 1988. Her trial commenced on October 15, 1989. There were 30 hearing days over the next 13 months, and the trial concluded on November 6, 1990.

On July 25, 1991, Justice Patrick Dunn acquitted S.M.


Justice Goudge notes that although former Chief Coroner Dr. James Young, and then Deputy Chief Coroner, Dr. Jim Cairns, ultimately learned that the 12-year-old babysitter SM had been acquitted on the charge of manslaughter in connection with Amber's death, "the Chief Coroner's Office failed to pursue the matter beyond informal discussions with Dr. Smith."

Goudge makes clear that Smith "actively thwarted" any accountability with a lie that Dunn had repeatedly told him during the trial that he believed SM was guilty.

However, Goudge points out that neither Young nor Cairns investigated Smith's claims and that, "In fact, when Dr. Young and Dr. Cairns learned of SM's acquittal, neither of them read Justice Dunn's decision to inform themselves of the trial judge's criticisms."

This refusal to exercise supervision over Smith led to consequences because, "Justice Dunn's decision raised a danger signal about Dr. Smith's competence and professionalism. Unfortunately that signal was ignored and any opportunity for re-evaluation of Dr. Smith's work was lost."

Justice Goudge also found that, in spite of Young's denial that an investigator from the College of Physicians and Surgeons had brought Dunn's scathing criticisms to his attention, "I find that, although Ms. Mann told Dr. Young about the trial of SM and specifically that Justice Dunn's judgement was highly critical of Dr. Smith, Dr. Young did not really appreciate the significance of what she told him."

"Because he did not approach the meeting with the openness and objectivity one expects of an overseer, it did not change his mind about the importance of the judgment," Goudge ruled. "Another opportunity to address the concerns identified by the judge was lost."

Goudge faults Cairns for his comment on the Fifth Estate documentary aired on Nov. 10, 1999, in which he says, "I, with due respect, feel that the medical evidence was confusing and that the judge may not have clearly understood all the evidence that was being given."

"When he gave the interview, Dr. Cairns had not even read Justice Dunn's full reasons for judgment or the court judgement," Goudge found..."He was not in a position to comment independently and objectively on the decision and he ought not to have criticized Justice Dunn's decision based solely on Dr. Smith's opinion."

Similarly he faults Young, who maintained that he had been away when the episode ran, for concluding that he had no reason to watch it, saying, "He owed it to his office to take the program more seriously."

Goudge notes that although Young testified that he had not seen the program, he provided Smith with government funds to help Smith's libel suit against the Fifth Estate and the CBC.

Goudge also cites Young in connection with his response to a letter from two concerned parents who had been affected by Dr. Smith's evidence and had read a highly critical article about Smith and the Chief Coroner's Office called "Dead Wrong" that had been published in Maclean's magazine.

Goudge says Young commented that, in his view, the Maclean's article was "dead wrong", in that it was full of inaccurate assumptions and statements, and that it was currently the subject of a lawsuit.

"He did so, apparently. without even having read the entire article" Goudge said.

In this Blogster's view, the Goudge report established that the Maclean's article, by reporter Jane O'Hara, was "dead right" - as was the CBC's Fifth Estate documentary - and both had been the subject of a libel suit launched by Dr. Smith.

Harold Levy...hlevy15@gmail.com