A provincial judge has determined that Jason Cardinal is solely responsible for the deaths of his two sons in December, 2010 in Edmonton.

In a public fatality inquiry report to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Judge Raymond Bodnarek concluded that Children’s Services are not to be blamed for the deaths of six-year-old Caleb and three-year-old Gabriel.

“After carefully considering all of the evidence, I find that their deaths were not caused by flaws in the system,” Bodnarek concluded. “I find that [Children’s Services] made reasonable professional judgement calls throughout their involvement with Caleb and Gabriel. These judgement calls were made with regard to a variety of sources of information – including opinions from mental health professionals. Sadly, as demonstrated by this case, even within a proper functioning child welfare system terrible things can sometimes happen.”

Cardinal pleaded guilty of two counts of first-degree murder for killing his two sons during a court authorized and unsupervised visit on December 19, 2010, and is currently serving a life sentence with no parole for 25 years.

The report focuses on the one-year legal battle that started in January, 2010 between Cardinal and the boys’ mother Andrea Badger, when she became concerned that the two boys and her older daughter from a previous relationship were in danger due to Cardinal’s mental health issues.

In late 2008, Cardinal obtained a parenting order from Badger when she began working away from home, and by May, 2009, Children’s Services first became involved with Caleb and Gabriel.

The report states the children were placed on Badger’s care in March of 2010 under custody pending final disposition, and Cardinal was granted access with supervision. Over the summer, Cardinal gained more access to Caleb and Gabriel as he treated ongoing mental issues and parenting problems, and by the end of the summer, the father was able to spend time with his children during unsupervised weekend visits subject to random visits by a Family Reunification Worker (FRW).

In the report, Bodnarek said Cardinal’s behavior began to worsen in the fall, when he was caught obtaining prescription drugs fraudulently, banned from a doctor’s office for seeking drugs, and charged with shoplifting.

The boys remained with their mother following an incomplete court hearing on December 6 to determine the custody of the children. The meeting was rescheduled to April, 2011.

Bodnarek said Cardinal admitted to plotting the murders prior to the court hearing in case the boys were not returned to him. And sometime on December 19, Cardinal drugged Caleb and Gabriel before strangling them to death.

The report outlined Cardinal mental health issues and his dealings with his psychologist, Dr. Janis Martin, and a psychologist hired by Children’s Services, Dr. Ann Marie Dewhurst.

Dr. Dewhurst completed a parenting assessment of Cardinal in July, and concluded that “[Cardinal] does not appear to be generally violent and is unlikely to engage in random acts of violence. Any aggression he displays is likely to be in the context of emotional reactivity. As his ability to modulate his emotions improves and he maintains a stable medication regime, his risk for future violence is in the moderately low range.”

Dr. Dewhurst recommended the court on December 6 “that she could not recommend the return of the boys to Mr. Cardinal at the time,” but did not advise a change to Cardinal’s unsupervised access.

Dr. Martin met with Cardinal and his two sons the day before he killed them and said there were no warning signs. An FRW worker drove Cardinal and the boys to Dr. Martin’s office, and noted nothing inappropriate, and Cardinal’s mother, Germaine Cardinal, testified that she spoke with her son the day he killed the boys and they made Christmas plans.

“It was Mr. Cardinal who failed Caleb and Gabriel and not any flaw in the child welfare system nor any improper judgement exercised by [Children’s Services.] Mr. Cardinal’s failure was profound, disturbing and incompressible. Mr. Cardinal devised and followed through on his plan to kill his boys. He told no one and fooled everyone,” Bodnarek concluded.