Police seize child from Alberta mother; B.C. judge questioned
Saturday, Sept. 23 was supposed to be the day Daylan Potskin celebrated his second birthday at Chucky Cheese.
Instead, an RCMP officer met his mother Kandis Potskin at the front door of their Spruce Grove apartment. He had a B.C. court order that allowed him to take Daylan and give him to his father, who he’d last seen as a newborn.
Four minutes later, Potskin left the building with Daylan in her arms. The Mountie carried the boy’s small, hastily packed suitcase. Potskin placed Daylan in the back seat of the cruiser and watched as it drove away. The officer wouldn’t tell her where he was taking her son.
With birthday presents still in the trunk of her car, she struggled to make sense of what had just happened.
“I was in shock. I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t know what to do,” said Potskin, who wasn’t part of any custody hearing in any province and who friends describe as a wonderful, loving parent.
“How can they grant full custody to someone who is a total stranger to my kid? He has no ties to him at all.”
Saturday was the first of six days that Daylan was separated from the only parent he’s ever known; the first of six days of fighting by Kandis Potskin.
She hired a lawyer and on Monday, arrived at the Edmonton Law Courts with friends. By then, she knew her ex, Kelly Swartz, had Daylan, but not where they were.
“I cry myself to sleep every night wanting my son,” she said at the time. “If I open my eyes, his crib is there but he’s not in it. I can’t sleep.
“I’m frustrated. I want my child back now.”
Potskin’s lawyer, an expert in family law and veteran of many custody battles, was as baffled by the B.C. court order as Potskin.
“I can’t tell from the face of this order on what grounds this child was snatched by surprise from mom,” said Kim Doniger.
The order, dated Aug. 25 and signed by B.C. Provincial Court Judge Ellen Gordon, indicates there was a custody hearing in Surrey, B.C. The transcript shows that hearing was brief. Kelly Swartz appeared without a lawyer. He said Potskin and Daylan lived with him in Vancouver but “she took off, and I started the court thing right after that.”
Potskin disputes Swartz’s account. She says she lived briefly in B.C. after Daylan was born but had her own place.
Doniger argued Swartz is not just a stranger to his son; he’s a stranger in the eyes of the law. Though Potskin acknowledges Swartz is Daylan’s biological father, he’s not listed on the birth certificate. He had no contact with either Potskin or Daylan for 22 months. There was no paternity test. How did he even prove his connection to the child?
“It’s very scary; the fact a complete legal stranger, that Ms. Potskin hasn’t seen in almost two years, can just walk into a court and take her child from her,” Doniger said.
“He doesn’t even have any proof that he’s father of the child. So that’s pretty scary that you can just go to a court and get an order snatching someone else’s child. I think that’s very scary.”
Doniger argued the B.C. court had no authority to decide the fate of a child born, raised and residing in Alberta.
The judge agreed. Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Avril Inglis asserted jurisdiction over Daylan’s case. She stayed the B.C. order and instructed Daylan be returned to his mother pending a full hearing.
But one overwhelming problem remained.
“We still don’t know where he is,” Potskin said.
“What he must be feeling, wondering where I am, why he’s over there. He doesn’t know anything. He’s just lost, confused, scared.”
On Thursday, after three days of wrangling with courts, Potskin was told she could go fetch her son. She caught a plane to Vancouver and, shortly before midnight Alberta time, finally got Daylan back. They returned to Edmonton the next day. At the airport, Daylan greeted other family members with a big smile and hugged his five-year-old sister.
Potskin is relieved but also angry. She blames the B.C. court for “snatching” her son with no good reason.
Neither the B.C. government nor the B.C. provincial court has provided a response to her concerns.
Swartz did not respond to a request for an interview.
As she stood in the arrivals area of the airport, watching her son run around and play with his sister and grandmother, she vowed to keep fighting.
“It was so easy for him to come here and grab the baby. But to get him back, is like I’m jumping through hoops.
“This can’t happen. If this can happen to me, if it can happen to one mother, it’s going to happen to another — or it could. And we don’t want that. I don’t want it.”