This story is completely unbelievable – and it’s out of Canada, no less – a nation that I thought actually respected its citizenry. 26-year-old Jesse Sansone was handcuffed and brought to jail after his 4-year-old daughter drew a picture depicting a man holding a gun. The Kitchener, Ontario kindergartner told her teacher the man was her father and that he uses the gun “to shoot bad guys and monsters,” according to RT.com.
When Sansone arrived to pick his daughter up from school, “cops handcuffed the clueless father and dragged him off to jail. It was there that the dad was stripped of his clothes and searched by the authorities. Sansone was never charged with a crime.”
And get this: Sansone is a licensed personal support worker who educates children and just a year ago, his daughter’s principal offered him a job as a counselor!
Okay, where to begin? First of all, you’d think the whole “monsters” thing would have tipped the teacher off to the fact that this drawing came strictly from the child’s imagination and not from anything she’d seen her father do in real life. The teacher likely overreacted by calling child services, but so be it. Better safe than sorry, I suppose. But child services officials then set off a chain of irresponsible actions, calling police and asking them to surprise Sansone at pick-up without having investigated the matter at all. Police not only arrested Sansone but subjected him to a strip search. According to RT.com, “Authorities took all three of Sansone’s children and dragged them to Family and Children’s Services to be interviewed. His wife (says) that authorities never explained themselves.”
Sansone “was scared and was told he would be charged with possession of a firearm,” even though he doesn’t own a gun. RT.com reports, “After being held for hours, Sansone was eventually freed from jail and was asked to authorize a search of his home. Though he didn’t have to comply, he says he did so anyway. Authorities did not recover any weapons in their search.”
Sansone’s wife says police “acted on an assumption and nothing else.” She told reporters, ”The way everything happened was completely unnecessary, especially since we know the school very well. I don’t understand how they came to that conclusion from a four-year-old’s drawing.”
Waterloo Regional Police Inspector Kevin Thaler initially told reporters, ”We had every concern, based on this information that children were in danger.” But, RT.com adds, “The information is now being called into question after Thaler adds that investigators never saw the drawing.” Emphasis mine. TheRecord.com reports that “Waterloo Region’s police chief has called for a thorough review of police actions related to the arrest and detention of a father whose daughter drew a picture of a gun in school.”
Sansone is understandably “extremely upset about the incident” and “has hired an Ottawa lawyer.” He “is no longer speaking publicly.” Sansone’s lawyer, Solomon Friedman, told the press, “On its surface, it appears serious mistakes were made at every level. I share the concerns that have animated millions of Canadians across the country (that) there appears to have been an arbitrary arrest and detention. People are asking themselves, ‘Can this really happen in Canada?’”
That was the first thing I thought when I read this story. Canada, really? Not surprisingly, gun enthusiasts have glommed onto this story, suggesting that “this is the police reacting to a gun issue versus a child safety issue.” Owning a gun is legal in Canada, but again, Sansone doesn’t own a gun. Though I shudder to think how this story might have gone if he had a firearm in the home – even a registered one. It seems clear that the police were unnecessarily involved in this ridiculous overinterpretation of a child’s drawing, then they overstepped their bounds in a tremendous way, violating the rights of an innocent man. This case really drives the point home for me that maybe we’ve gone too far in our sensitivities toward our children, hyperaware of their every thought, their every word, overanalyzing their moods and behaviors. Sometimes a picture is just a picture, a 4-year-old’s creative fantasy. Maybe we should learn to accept that.