A Nunavut judge is asking why a mother convicted of repeatedly telling her daughter to kill herself was allowed continued contact with the girl as well as custody of her own infant son.
"The nature of this offence is simply beyond the comprehension of right-thinking people," wrote Justice Susan Cooper in her decision, which was released this week. "It is only through luck and the work of medical and mental health professionals that the daughter is alive today."
The 38-year-old mother, known only as L.P., was found guilty Jan. 31 in Arviat, Nunavut, of counselling her 17-year-old daughter to commit suicide.
Cooper's judgment says the mother repeatedly told her daughter that she did not want her and that the girl should kill herself.
"Her daughter took the comments to heart," wrote Cooper.
The daughter made several attempts to take her life, including at least two immediately after her mother said she should. At least once, she had to be flown south for medical treatment.
L.P.'s statements came to light after her daughter revealed them to a mental health worker, the judgment reads. L.P. was then arrested and the daughter and her one-year-old brother were taken by social workers to a family member.
L.P.'s common-law husband of three years was already in custody at the time of her arrest.
The mother was released until her trial under a court order to have no contact with her daughter.
However, Cooper notes in her judgment that not only did L.P. and her daughter visit daily, but the little boy was returned to her care.
"The court has been advised that the daughter 'feels safe' when she has these visits, but this is quite different from the visits being in her best interests," wrote Cooper. "It would seem that, absent a psychiatric assessment supporting reconciliation, such contact is risky.
"While the boy's physical health might not be at risk, it is difficult to be as confident with respect to his mental and emotional health."
The judgment says L.P. suffers from "intellectual limitations" and may have had her own mental health problems.
Cooper directly criticized social services for letting the mother and daughter reunite.
"They should not have turned a blind eye to, let alone facilitated, the breach of a court order."
No one from the Department of Health and Social Services was immediately available for comment.
Cooper's judgment also provides some context to the tragic case, pointing out suicide rates in Nunavut are 10 to 12 times the national average.