Josef did not foresee that his dream of a free and happy life in Canada would turn out so tragically. Josef Fisher was born in Czechoslovakia in 1954 and in 1987 he fled communism to come to Canada. He is a naturalized Canadian living in Vancouver today. He is a broken man.
As an army officer in a small Czechoslovakian town Josef met a Cuban worker named Milene. Milene became pregnant and in 1985 returned to Cuba for their baby's birth. They named their son Yosef (later called Joe). Sadly Milene died eight days after Joe's birth. Milene's two sisters and mother took care of the boy until he was twelve.
Meanwhile Josef met a fellow Czechoslovakian named Iva in Italy where he was in a refugee camp for two years. He emigrated to Canada first and when she arrived ten months later, they were married. They briefly lived in Toronto where their daughter was born and they then moved to Vancouver in August 1991. In time, a son was born. After some interviews in 1995 Josef and Iva became foster parents receiving children from MCFD. They could not have known how MCFD involvement would change their lives. Some foster children from abusive backgrounds exhibited sexually aberrant behaviour which the Fishers reported and satisfactorily handled.
When his grandmother died in Cuba in 1997, Josef's son Joe requested to live in Canada with the Fishers. Fishers were still fostering children when they received Joe. After five months and on his first Christmas Eve in Canada, the Fishers learned that Joe had touched their six year old daughter indecently on several occasions. Joe was mortified by what he had done. While this sybling indiscretion could have been handled by the Fishers themselves, they trusted MCFD, so the Fishers notified their family doctor and MCFD. MCFD was initially satisfied with precautions taken by Fishers but then made accusations that they did not protect the children and MCFD installed 24 hour homemakers to monitor the family until a police investigation was done. A SW accused the Fishers of potential parental sexual exploitation which the social worker later acknowledged to be untrue. The frightened boy was interrogated by a Vancouver Police Sexual Offenses Squad detective who concluded the boy was remorseful and there was no risk of re-offending and no charge would be laid but also that counseling was needed for the boy's threats to harm himself.
Joe was twelve and terrified by social and psychiatric professionals. All members of the Fisher biological family were ordered into counselling. Josef and Iva felt victimized by a system that did not listen, assumed falsely, repeatedly made accusations and shut them out of consultations with their son. Their family future was being planned without them. Having fled communism, they were experiencing government interference and were helpless. They delivered requests for help to officials in early 1998. Their foster home was closed in 1998. Fishers were not permitted to say goodbye to the last foster child removed on Mother's Day in May 1998. Iva and Josef had to have mental health assessments. They refused. They cancelled the voluntary care agreement. They were threatened that Joe would be charged with sexual assault and their own children removed. Fishers were perceived as being unwilling for their children to receive therapeutic help.
They made appeals to anyone and everyone. Josef repeatedly complained to police and MCFD, the Attorney General, the Representative of Children, to MLA's, to MPs, the Civil Liberties Commission and the Canadian Human Rights Commission alleging Human Rights violations. Initial sympathy always resulted in disappointment. Their children's teachers and their family doctor commended the Fishers and deplored MCFD's treatment. Sympathetic professionals sought to intervene but were squelched by MCFD. Young Joe needed a Spanish translation to understand. Mr. Fisher's own ability to express himself in English was always a challenge and his growing anxiety was expressed in ways that social workers felt offended and threatened. For the first time his mental health was questioned and the audio recording of the police interrogation is on his blog. As his helplessness increased, Mr. Fisher acted irrationally and he was arrested for uttering threats, then released. Josef's complaints were seen as inflammatory, harsh, libelous and slanderous. Judges would not listen to the Fishers' charges. Josef was viewed as a risk, obsessive and mentally unstable. Josef's communications were prolific and relentless until his letters and faxes and emails were viewed as criminal harassment. By 2000 all agencies closed their ears to Josef. He was arrested once again, charged, found guilty and placed on probation. Over the next eight years he was arrested nine times, was incarcerated for many months, was detained for psychiatric assessment and was diagnosed as narcissistic, obsessive, compulsive, paranoid with antisocial traits. The issues were always related to Criminal harassment, Breach of probation and Uttering threats. On March 14 2005 Josef hit the news as an Emergency Response Team was summoned to prevent him from lighting himself on fire at the CBC Plaza in downtown Vancouver. By 2007 his son Joe had already experienced tasering, arrest, become drug dependent and homelessness. He was eventually placed in a group home.
Josef has not stopped telling his story and he will never get over his destroyed life. I don't condone all that Josef did. Had I known him I would have advised him on different courses of action many times. So, while Josef is responsible for his own responses, all government systems failed him and his family. His daughter has gone on to be successful at university. Josef and his son Joe (now 26) may find an apartment together. Josef and his wife Iva will be divorced in January 2011. I truly hope that all their lives are happier in 2011.
I have Josef's permission to tell this story. You can read Josef's own journalled account of his long ordeal in his linked blog. As you read all of his pages, bear in mind that the writing reflects Josef's agony, anger, confusion as well as English being his second language.