Things That are Broken and Awful
Man, have I been busy. And then this (the link is certainly ephemeral, being canoeshit, so the full text of the Calgary Herald story will be posted below) happened.
Now I am constrained, by the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, to be sure, and also by basic human decency, but also by the suspicion that our staff may well be testifying under oath in the next year or so. Nevertheless:
I think I can say this: in all the tragic family stories I have heard over the last 20 or so years, and that is no small number, this famly's has been the absolutely and simply the most tragic. The newpaper story gets it right in general, though often wrong in detail, but there is so much more, so very much more, and it is all not good, it is all a story of unrelieved tragedy. Just imagine everything bad that could possibly happen to a family over a decade or so, and then add two or three more bad things, and you might begin to get a bit of a glimpse of the actual picture.
I think I can say this: probably no other family in the history of CCIS has received so much service, from so many divisions and programs and at such a level of intensity from us. It failed.
I think I can say this: this family was involved with probably every social type service available, from Health to the Police to Child Protection to the Courts to Welfare to Mental Health (all of these agencies and Authorities and programs have different names in Orwellian Alberta nomenclature, but I want to speak Plain English) to various voluntary organizations, including us, and they ALL, and I repeat we ALL, severally, distinctly, and multiply, failed. You can cover your ass all you want, and there is going to be a lot of that going on for the next while, but the proof is in the pudding, the pudding in this case being a dead 14 year old girl. The System failed, and we will have to admit it before we are done, although there will be a lot of blame passing before we are done, I am sure.
I think I can say this: I have started about eight posts about this, with titles ranging from J'Accuse to What Have We Done? to Misunderstanding The Truth to Failing Reality to Decompressing to Why I Am in a Bad Mood.
I think I can say this: there are some things so broken and awful that you cannot make them right. This is life, and very bad stuff can and will happen, and more than once, and outside of any recognizeable karma. Because society doesn't want to deal immediately and personally with the broken and agonized, we pay others to deal with it (at a fraction of the real cost of dealing with it, because you can ruthlesslessly exploit our compassions) and then blame us greatly when we can't solve every problem. And because, you don't think it can happen to you. Let an old social worker assure you, it can happen to you.
Well, I'm up to eight now, each worse than the last, on my career list of unnatural deaths. From time to time I dream of each of them still, and this is just one more nightmare to add to the list.
Calgary Herald, Feb 28
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Calgary mother Aset Magomadova begged for help with her violent, drug-addicted daughter for more than a year before ending up in jail, accused of killing the 14-year-old in a fight in their Fairview home.
According to the victim's aunt, Layla Magomadova, who was in the house at the time of Monday's murder, Aminat (pronounced Amina) became mixed up with the wrong crowd and got hooked on crystal methamphetamine when she was 12, not long after the family emigrated to Canada from Chechnya three years ago.
Since then, she bounced between schools and had become increasingly "dangerous" to the point her brother and mother, now charged with second-degree murder in her death, had to stay with friends for days at a time to escape the threats on their lives.
"She hated everyone and did very bad things to our family. Nothing we could do would make her listen," Layla, a single mother of a four-year-old girl, said through tears.
"My sister didn't know anyone to help her, and was asking everyone to help, but the police kept bringing Aminat home. My sister had to protect herself.
"My sister told me one time when she was crying that she wanted her daughter back," added Layla.
"We missed her, the girl she was before she came to Canada. She used to be a good girl."
Relatives and friends described tearful phone calls they received from the 36-year-old Aset following the almost daily physical fights between her and her daughter.
Her mom, who was handicapped after losing part of her foot in an accident before she fled Chechnya, couldn't work and got housing though the city -- a home on Fay Road S.E.
The dead girl's brother, Rizvan, who suffers from muscular dystrophy and is confined to a wheelchair, was home at the time of Monday's murder. He witnessed part of the fight, said his aunt, who will be caring for him. He hasn't described the morning in detail and is still in shock, but has told his aunt the fight started over money to buy drugs.
"She told her mom she had to pay her money all the time. She stole things to get drugs," Layla said, adding she's had several items stolen, including cellphones.
Before coming to Canada, Aset sought protection in Chechen refugee camps with her children after her husband went missing in 1995. According to a newspaper article from Grozny, Aset wrote letters describing the horrors she endured before fleeing her homeland.
"I hope no one else will ever witness and experience what we experienced," she wrote. "I would never have believed that something like this would happen to a human being."
She went on to describe how she never received help to escape the torture, and how she still thought of the "Russians who were grossly abusing me.
"All the memories . . . are terribly painful, it was such a nightmare."
Layla sponsored her sister's application to come to Canada so "her children could have a good education."
She put them up in her small apartment near 17th Avenue and 14th Street S.W. for almost three years after they arrived.
But Aminat's behaviour became so violent before Christmas that Layla was forced to ask them to leave out of fear for her own daughter's safety.
Family friend Sulayman Salamov, who knew the family for eight years before they came to Canada, said Aminat wasn't always bad.
"She was an angel," he said through an interpreter, describing the teen as he knew her in Chechnya.
"Then she met friends in Canada -- 17- and 18-year-old boys -- and she changed, went crazy."
He put up Aset and her son on several occasions to hide from Aminat while she was high on drugs, he said.
"Aset was scared for her life," Salamov said, adding Aminat tried to break into his apartment before and has also stolen from him. "Aset is a very kind person, a very nice person who wouldn't hurt people."
Mark Buckley, principal of William Roper Hull Home in the city's S.W. where Aminat attended school most recently, described the girl as "vibrant and engaging," despite her behavioural problems.
Staff at the school were visibly shaken by her death, and believed she had lots of potential to turn her life around, he said.
"She had lots of spunk," Buckley said.
Police would only confirm they had been to the Fay Road house about five times in the past five weeks, but could not specify why or what the outcome was.
"In this situation, there were no calls to other agencies or to other (police) units to assist. In a murder investigation, we will always look at the history leading up to the occurrence," said Acting Staff Sgt. Chris Matthews, of the Calgary police homicide unit.
"Generally, child and family services is called in situations where children are in danger, in conjunction with the Child at Risk Response Team.
"At this time, we didn't have the need to call the domestic conflict unit, and we didn't have the need to call the Child at Risk Response Team," he said.
Neither autopsy results nor the cause of death has been released.
Aset is due back in court next Tuesday after she finds a lawyer and an interpreter.