more access three weeks before girl was thrown off bridge
Judge haunted by Inara's ordeal
The judge who gave Inara Amarsi's father access to the
little girl on Sunday afternoons — three weeks before his attempt to
kill her — says he has been grappling with his conscience over the
consequences of his decision.
Marvin Zuker, a veteran family court judge, said he was “horrified” to
learn the five-year-old girl whose custody arrangement he had decided
just weeks earlier was hurled 15 metres off a bridge on Sunday, by the
same man who had begged the court to allow him more time with the
daughter he loved.
“How can he say to me on Feb. 15, 'I love my daughter,' and do this?”
said Judge Zuker, of the Ontario Court of Justice. “My initial reaction
was, 'Could we, or should the court, have done something differently?' ”
But the judge, best known as an advocate for children and women's
rights, believes no one could have predicted Inara's father, Alnoor
Amarsi, would take his own life and attempt to murder his daughter. The
little girl remains in critical condition with chest and abdominal
“It wasn't about the court or anything the court did. It was about
revenge or getting even.”
It is extremely rare for a judge to explain a ruling in a media
But Judge Zuker said he has been stung by suggestions in the media the
courts should not have given Mr. Amarsi access to his daughter.
It is a frustrating position for the judge, who dedicates much of his
time outside the courtroom to working with schools, police and
government to reduce youth violence.
An associate professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in
Education, he has authored texts on education law, as well as
co-authored, with activist June Callwood, Canadian Women and the Law and
The Law Is Not for Women.
“I want people to appreciate the stress that goes into these kinds of
cases and the difficulty in trying to determine, quite often, who is
telling the truth,” Judge Zuker said. “Sometimes it's too easy to blame
When Inara's feuding parents were last in his
courtroom, on Feb. 15, there was no discussion about Mr. Amarsi's mental
state or reference to allegations the man had attempted to kill himself
in 2001 and 2002. Both parties appeared to be satisfied with their
custody arrangement, according to a court transcript.
“For the most part,” said Shamsha Amarsi's lawyer, Lana Pryce, “things
are going well.”
The couple had been before Judge Zuker many times since splitting up
three weeks after their daughter's birth in November, 1999.
The last court appearance addressed routine issues of child support and
Shamsha Amarsi, who earns $47,000 working for Air Canada, wanted to
increase the $62 a month she received from her former husband to $184.
Usually unemployed, Mr. Amarsi had finally secured a $21,000 income,
working as a customer service representative.
Judge Zuker agreed to the increase but did not require Mr. Amarsi to
contribute to Inara's $5,000 private school fees.
Mr. Amarsi's demands were more controversial. He wanted overnight visits
with Inara, in addition to the unsupervised visits he was already
granted in the couple's January, 2004, custody arrangement that allowed
unsupervised visits on Wednesday evenings and Saturday afternoons, as
well as daily telephone calls.
Previously, Judge Zuker had prohibited overnight stays
because Mr. Amarsi lived in a rooming house full of strangers.
According to the court transcript of the Feb. 15 hearing, Ms. Amarsi's
lawyer contested the overnight request, but proposed additional Sunday
Judge Zuker accepted Ms. Pryce's proposal, according to the transcript,
and lashed out at Mr. Amarsi for moving in to an apartment in the same
building as his ex-wife, near Don Mills Road and Eglinton Avenue East.
“I'm telling you that, why, if two people are separated, when this man
has the whole of Toronto to move into, he decides to move into the same
building. I'm surprised he didn't move next door.”
“Come on ... the only reason is control, that's all control. I mean, we
weren't born yesterday.”
Mr. Amarsi countered he was living with a family he knows “from back
home” that took him in when he was “in trouble.” “Unfortunately, they
live in the same building,” he told the judge. “I have no control over
He also begged the judge to award him “makeup” access
of 36 hours, time he alleges Ms. Amarsi took from him. “I would like to
have my 36 hours that I've lost with my daughter, sir.”
“I love my daughter, Your Honour, and I'd like to spend more time with
her,” Mr. Amarsi told the judge.
In the end, both parties, represented by their lawyers, accepted the
arrangement and did not raise any issues about Mr. Amarsi's mental
“If there was any evidence presented to me suggesting instability, I can
assure you in a second, I never would have given him unsupervised
visits,” Judge Zuker said yesterday.
Inara, meanwhile, continues to fight for her life at the Hospital for
Sick Children. An uncle on her mother's side, Altaf Noorali, last night
said her doctors are optimistic.
11 March 2005