A tale of kidnapping or neglect?
Many are now becoming familiar with the shocking story of Lisa Kirkman's son, Noah. Noah has been under the care & supervision as a ward of the state of Oregon since the end of September 2008. But how did Noah, a Canadian citizen, end up in this predicament? He was in Oregon for a summer holiday. Many reports in the media say Noah was taken into custody after being spotted by police for not wearing a helmet, and then turned over to DHS. Is that really what happened?
Well, it's quite a confusing, winding set of circumstances that detail how a minor ends up as a ward of the state in a foreign country. A complex and almost unbelievable chain of events. Information exists but is scattered around in every form of media available. Newspapers, TV and radio interviews, internet interviews, blogs and some statements written by Lisa and her family. Different aspects of the circumstances are illuminated by a plethora of different sources. Many journalists have printed misinformation and it gets repeated as if it were true. Journalism ain't what it used to be. The investigative part is often found AWOL. A wise media insider said that when you see a news media report, always ask yourself, “I wonder if that is really true?”
I stumbled across this story on Mother's Day. A QMI Agency reporter had a story on a national website that gave me my first glimpse into this drama. Thinking that QMI Agency was the Quebec link of the Sun Media group, I thought the unfolding drama was taking place in Quebec. I was wrong. This story is based in Calgary and Oregon but spans BC and Quebec. The printed story didn't sound quite right. My gut can handle some of the hottest spices in Indian curry dishes, but not journalistic malpractice. There were not enough details in the article to determine what happened.
I decided to look a bit deeper into the saga. I was captivated as the ultimate 'untold' story scratched and clawed it's way to the surface. Well, it was not really 'untold', it was actually told. Unfortunately, it was not in just one place. Tiny bits and pieces of critical background information seemed to be scattered everywhere.
Lisa Kirkham, a mother of two young children, was living in Montreal in the spring of 20081. She had a son Noah who was 10 years old, and a daughter 5 yrs old1. Lisa decided to allow her son, Noah to visit his stepfather in Oregon for a summer vacation1,16. The stepfather is Lisa's husband1. They share their daughter, Mia1. Noah was Lisa's own biological son, but his biological father was never much a part of Noah's life1,6. Noah, 10 yrs old, is challenged with a few serious psychological anxiety disorders14,16. Noah suffers from severe ADHD1,3,6,8,9,11,13,16,17 (attention deficit hyperactive disorder), ODD1 (oppositional defiant disorder), OCD1,9 (obsessive compulsive disorder), and cyclothymiacs2 a severe form of BPD (bi-polar disorder). The stepfather, who was going to be taking over care and supervision of Noah, is himself disabled2. John suffers from myalgic encephalomyelitis3, a neurological disorder more also known as chronic fatigue syndrome6 and is a medical marijuana card holder7.
John Kirkman is an American citizen, and had lived in Oregon for two years4. He had a home in Oakridge Oregon, a town of just over 3,000 people, situated just off the Willamette highway some 46 miles southeast of Eugene. Oakridge is located in the western part of the Willamette National Forest. John has a biological daughter with his wife Lisa, and had been in Noah's life from about the age of 2 until Noah was 8 years old. The severity of the Canadian winters made his neurological disorder worse5.
Noah arrived in Oakridge in the early summer of 20083, being sent there by Lisa2,14 so she could get things together for the planned move to Calgary2. Lisa decided to move to Calgary so her son could attend a special-needs school2,17. No one outside the family seems to agree on how Noah got to Oregon. Lisa provided a letter of medial release to her husband, authorizing Noah to be treated while he was in the US6. The mother says she flew him there7, as well as she drove him there from Montreal6 or from Calgary6, some report that John travelled together with Noah to Oregon2,13. Regardless of how he got to Oakridge, Noah ended up on police radar shortly after his arrival in town6,16,20. He was first spotted wandering along highway 584,7,20. The police stopped to see what this young child was doing by himself, on a highway outside of town. Noah had trouble explaining who he was staying with and why16. That summer, Noah was also found wandering around in an industrial area1,7,16, he was also spotted sitting on a broken fence1,16 but denied he had broken it.7 Noah was also stopped along with a group of kids who were riding bikes or skateboards without a helmet.1,3,7,8,9,11,12,13,14,15,17,20
Police had to drive Noah back to his stepfather more than once1.
Afraid, abused and running away
On one of these discussions with the police, Noah told them that he was afraid4,20, running away from his stepfather7, and that his stepfather had hurt him4,7,20. Police report all allegations of abuse to DHS4,7. As John had been living in Oakridge by himself for two years, police began to look into this strange relationship4,11. John had lived in Oakridge for a couple of years, but was not known to have had any children living with him4. Police did not know Noah's background.2,7,20 Noah was also displaying quirky behaviour8,9. Lisa says the boy's behaviour seemed odd to the police because Noah not taking his ADHD medication.6 A man who had no local history of having a child, now had a 10 yr old in his home7. The police did some investigating and determined that Noah was a Canadian citizen11. US authorities determined that John was not considered a legal guardian of Noah11,14. Since Noah had alleged abuse by his stepfather, police were obligated to inform the Department of Human Services of the situation. DHS contacted Canadian authorities and found out that Noah had a file with social services3,8,12,13,15 in both BC9,11 and Quebec9. These files are sealed, but it is common knowledge that Noah's mother had voluntarily placed Noah into foster care several times when the family lived in BC1,9. She says she relinquished Noah into foster care so he could receive therapeutic services to help him deal with this anxiety disorders8. These files have not been made public.
Mia's Summer, TBD
Another interesting rabbit trail is where Mia spent the summer of 2008. Some reports state that Mia went back to Canada with mom after only a few days in Oregon1,6, others state that Mia spent the summer in Oregon with Noah and John2,8. Lisa's versions also muddy the waters. She asks, If they were such bad parents, why DHS didn't take Mia also3. Well, it would be rather difficult for DHS to to take Mia if Mia was back in Canada with mom. If Mia was in fact with her brother and father for the summer vacation, maybe Mia was not the one found along a highway, alone in an industrial area, and didn't mention she was afraid, running way, or that Papa had hurt her. Maybe I'm just being too picky.
Lisa Kirkman, has her own files in BC. Lisa has stated that she was challenged in a BC court over the custody of Noah4, but it was 'thrown out'. Those files have not been released by the family. She had also been operating a marijuana dispensary1,6 in Gibson. This marijuana dispensary was illegal, but it was not one of the top priorities of the law enforcement in that area. She was eventually charged with operating a grow-op after an article appeared in The Seattle Post-Intelligencer1. She said she was merely growing medicinal marijuana for her husband's disorder6,17. John had a medical permit to obtain medicinal marijuana because of his illness of chronic fatigue. Lisa was convicted15 of operating a grow-op8,9,14 and received 10 days of community service17. She later moved to Montreal. Lisa is an editor-ta-large for the magazine Skunk2,3, a rag that is self-described as “the most irreverent marijuana magazine available”. Skunk magazine states that “the cult she joined kicked her out for repeatedly showing up late to the orgies”, as well as “Pushing the envelope in the already thrusty world of anti-prohibition, she melded her two passions - sex & weed - when she first tried her hand as editor-in-chief of pot-porn Skeet Magazine.”19 Lisa (a.k.a. Mamakind) is an outspoken marijuana activist1,6 and has appeared at many prohibition rallies, and has lectured at marijuana conferences. In 2009, Lisa protested against Calgary school system's 'Drug Awareness Week'. Being interviewed by CBC in front of Forest Lawn High School in Calgary, she stated that the police only know how to arrest drug users, but are not trained in the health aspects of marijuana use. She said marijuana is a health issue and information should be coming from health professionals, and not the police who 'lie' about drugs.9 Lisa has been a user of marijuana for years, laces cookies with cannabis18 and recently obtained her own medical permit for medical marijuana. Lisa admits she is not a perfect parent.1
Neglected in Oregon? Abandoned by Mom?
DHS was concerned with Noah's lack of supervision in Oakridge. DHS phoned Lisa in August of 20081,4,20, and informed her that Noah was not receiving proper supervision1. Lisa waited a month to get down to Oregon to visit Noah1. She has said that she was planning to bring Noah back to Canada for school2, at the end of August8, but Noah was still in Oregon nearing the end of September and was even attending a Lane County school8. Lisa either permitted it, or wasn't aware. Lisa decided to go down to Oregon herself in late September. Sometime after her arrival in late September, DHS came to John's home and took Noah into their custody1,6,8. Lisa was apparently told Noah was being taken way until things got sorted out, maybe a few days1,8. A few days turned into a week or more, so Lisa left Oregon and returned to Canada. Later that year, the family started to prepare for the expected return of Noah2.
After the 'Abduction'
Lisa may have left right away to go back to Canada as it is reported that Lisa returned to Oregon with her daughter when DHS was saying Noah would be released in a week or so2. She brought Mia with her2. Noah had a history of violence with his younger sister2. The family decided that Mia was best left with John in Oregon, so that Noah could get used to his new home in Canada, and then slowly introduce Mia back into the Canadian home2. Lisa left Mia to be with John in Oregon. As time went on, Noah was not being released as was promised. Lisa told her husband she was going to come back to Oregon to bring Mia back to Canada to be with her during spring break2. Somehow DHS got wind of this. DHS apparently told John that if Lisa came back to Oregon and retrieve Mia, they would take her away also2. Lisa stayed in Canada, not visiting her son. At the end of the school year, John took Mia and smuggled2 her back into Canada. Lisa says DHS was 'furious'2 with this turn of events, but there was nothing they could do2.
In July of 20096, some 270 days after Noah was originally placed into foster care in Oregon, Lisa decided she wanted to visit Noah10. It was the first and last time8 Lisa had physical contact with Noah since he was taken by DHS.
Legal Hoops and the PhD
Noah's case has been in the Lane County court system for some time now. Lisa had to undergo an psychiatric evaluation3,8,9,15 by a Calgary psychologist - Lisa Matsella, PhD. Matsella provided a report to the Lane County Judge, Kip Leonard. Normally these reports are kept confidential, but Lisa released a lot of court documentation1, in an effort to spur public interest in Noah's 'misfortune'. Among the documents Lisa distributed to the media, was the psychologist's report. The report stated that although Lisa tests well, “she has difficulties empathizing with others, and is very egocentric in her choices that can result in hurt and instability for others in her life1.” Records also say Lisa Kirkman has “diminished capacities1”, and a “history of not protecting1 (Noah)”. The court ordered Lisa to take some parenting courses1,6,9, and the Calgary psychologist recommended Lisa undergo dialectic behavioural therapy1,8 to treat borderline personality disorder1. The cost for this therapy is approx $20,000 of which DHS said they would pay half. Lisa says 'I'm not a perfect parent, No one is, but no matter what I have done, I don't know how they can justify taking my child.
Foster Homes, Religion and Race
There have been allegations by Lisa and her family, that Noah was not being allowed to practice his Jewish religion8,9, that he had been subjected to racial slurs2,10, that he was being subjected to Christian philosophy by a foster family8. Noah has been in about 4 different foster homes in two years.4,6,12,17 Judge Leonard has stated that he will consider releasing Noah from DHS care after the current school year ends15. Judge Leonard as since retired, but he must clear his docket of outstanding cases before he can officially hang up his robe as a judge15.
DHS had made an offer to the Heltay's (Noah's grandparents) for a 'kinship home study' to determine their suitability providing a home for Noah, but the Kirkman family and Heltay's made threats to the evaluation company, and the evaluation was cancelled1.
Now armed with the rest of the story, you decide for yourself. Was Noah taken 'for no good reason', or for repeated, willful neglect?
Dale Johnson, the globalskeptic
1. The Register-Guard
3. Fast-Forward Weekly
4. War News Radio, Oregon Public Broadcasting
7. KVAL News
8. Calgary Sun
9. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
10. Marijuana Radio
11. Canadian Press
12. 660 News
14. Marijuana Policy Project
15. KGW Newschannel
16. KATU News
17. Calgary Herald