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LETTER: Only changes to the system will bring justice for Quinn

Quinn Butt. — Photo courtesy of the Butt family
Quinn Butt. — Photo courtesy of the Butt family

Justice for my granddaughter, five-year-old Quinn Butt, will not be achieved unless measures are taken to prevent innocent children from being lost during a divorce.

As Quinn’s Poppy Butt, I want to thank family, friends and acquaintances from far and near who supported me and my family over the past several years during this difficult time. Thank you to strangers for their messages of support. Thank you to all the first responders.

As a teenager, my son Trent witnessed his mother being very ill for years, which ended with a failed double lung transplant. During this time, he managed to be a good student. He got along with everyone. One year he was voted High School King as the most popular. He loved sports and played as much as he could, including pitching for his baseball team in 1992 and 1996 in the Newfoundland and Labrador Summer Games. He played minor hockey and was a member of the All-Star Midget Softball team that represented this province at the Canada Games in Brandon, Man., winning bronze. He went on to become a journeyman electrician. He travelled to and from Alberta as many others did, and finally worked in Long Harbour so he could be with his family. He was a good provider and father to Quinn. Every minute he wasn’t working, he spent with her. He adored her.

Then there was a high-conflict divorce between Trent and Quinn’s mother, Andrea Gosse, involving family court. She made allegations of assault against Trent. He was found not guilty, but the gossip and rumours continued, costing him his reputation and loss of friends. He became alienated and stressed out, and suffered from anxiety and depression. Because of this, Trent could no longer work and ran into financial difficulties. Still, he paid child support and was satisfied with joint custody, where he could be an equal parent and be involved with decisions about Quinn. But the other side did not agree.

There has been a lot of negative attitudes towards my son, saying he did it out of revenge. My son’s suicide letter “Final Words” focused on his love for Quinn, not revenge for her mother.

As divorce proceedings dragged on and the animosity grew between the two sides, Trent fell deeper into depression. He felt powerless and a sense of hopelessness. He reached out to the authorities about his daughter’s well-being, but there was nothing to show his concerns were taken seriously. What happened that night, I don’t know, but I suspect after years of torment, he finally reached his breaking point. He was tired of fighting and couldn’t go on any longer. I believe him when he says he did not plan this, that he would never hurt Quinn deliberately.

There has been a lot of negative attitudes towards my son, saying he did it out of revenge. My son’s suicide letter “Final Words” focused on his love for Quinn, not revenge for her mother. There are members of the media and the general public who should not be too quick to judge, because research and forensic psychiatry paint a more complicated picture in which society may not just be a witness but an accomplice to these types of crimes.

Research suggests that one way to help prevent loss of life and/or destruction of families during divorce is to eliminate the adversarial court system, where lawyers themselves can contribute to the conflict. My son believed this to be the case in his divorce proceedings.

Changes to the Family Law Act, Divorce Act and family court process must be made. Changes have to be made also to Child, Youth and Family Services, now with the Department of Children, Seniors and Social Development. We need to prevent this from happening to other children and families. I believe we would be much better off as a society.

Thanks to those who have contributed to projects in Quinn’s memory. Going forward we need to put measures in place to prevent loss of life and/or destruction of families by eliminating the adversarial system during a divorce.

Finally, I am looking forward to receiving a positive response to my letter of July 9, 2018, and a letter since, which I sent to both the provincial and federal governments asking for changes to the above-mentioned processes, and a judicial inquiry.

Herb Butt
Carbonear

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