Manitoba's longest-serving judge said the victim of a high-profile child-abduction case didn't suffer as much as portrayed in court because he likely wasn't going to be a "rocket scientist" anyway.
The remark by provincial court Judge Ted Lismer came earlier this week at the sentencing hearing for Kevin Maryk, who has admitted to fleeing to Mexico with his seven-year-old son and five-year-old daughter in August 2008. Maryk had lost full custody of the children only months earlier, but vanished with them while on a court-approved visitation.
Maryk kept the children in Mexico until he was found by police in May 2012.
Both victims were isolated in what justice officials describe as "deplorable" conditions that included no access to school or medical care and exposure to sex-trade workers, drugs and criminal activity.
Emily Cablek, the children's mother, gave a powerful impact statement to court in which she described the heavy toll the kidnapping took on the family. Both she and the children are suffering from ongoing emotional trauma while struggling to adjust to "normal" life.
Crown attorney Debbie Buors also submitted several reports about the children, including one from school officials, which speaks of how Dominic, now 13, and Abby, now 11, have fallen far behind their peers. She was using them in her argument Maryk inflicted major emotional trauma on the victims.
In the report on Dominic, they specifically stated his troubles in class "are likely the result of his abduction and social isolation." That's when Lismer chimed in, noting school officials indicated Dominic had been struggling even before the crime.
"That assessment has to be looked at against the first paragraph of the report where significant difficulties requiring behaviour intervention and resource guidance were required even then," said Lismer, who was appointed to the bench in 1977.
"It suggests that even before this unfortunate abduction he didn't show the promises of being a future, as the saying goes, rocket scientist."
Buors fired back, saying the fact Maryk took his children out of the school system prevented them from getting the type of corrective guidance that was readily available.
"Dominic was denied that assistance the four years he was missing," she said.
Cablek was in court at the time of the exchange but left without speaking to reporters. However, she told the Free Press Wednesday she was hurt by Lismer's comments.
"It was very insensitive of him to put it that way," said Cablek. "It wasn't very nice to hear, especially from the judge."
Cablek admitted Dominic had troubles while in Grade 1 -- a time, she notes, when he was spending most of his time with Maryk -- but said they'd worked hard to get him back on track in the months before he was abducted.
"We had set out a new plan. He was following it and doing wonderful. He didn't have a chance to continue," she said.
"The judge has to realize that between the ages of five and 10, those are the most important times for children. They soak up things like sponges."
The Crown is seeking a five-year sentence for Maryk, while he has requested he be released from jail immediately with a sentence of time in custody. Maryk has been in custody for the 25 months since his arrest.
Defence lawyer Todd Bourcier told court earlier this week Maryk fled with his children in order to give them a better life. He believed Cablek was exposing them to risk through her own lifestyle.
Since his arrest, Maryk has been caught writing letters to family members and friends in which he speaks about having money hidden away and plans to eventually return to Mexico with his children.
He even encourages friends to spy on the children while he is locked up.
Bourcier says there is no plot in place for a future kidnapping. Rather, Maryk plans to return to Mexico once legally able to do so and hopes his children will eventually join them when they are able to make their own decisions.
The case is back on the docket Monday, either for lawyers to make further submissions or for Lismer to set a date for his decision.