More than three decades after violating his foster daughter, a Scarborough man is facing justice.
Howard Smith, 61, was sentenced on March 28 for having had sexual intercourse with his foster daughter and impregnating her. Smith worked for the TTC for 36 years. By the time he left the commission, he had been promoted 17 times and had become the general superintendent of transportation for Toronto.
Today, Smith is facing a conditional sentence.
The victim, now a 50-year-old woman with grandchildren, quietly sobbed as the Ontario Superior Court judge read out the ruling.
“It is trite to say that these offences have rocked the worlds of two families,” Justice Jane Kelly said in her ruling. “To describe her appearance as that of a broken woman would be an understatement.”
The victim was 14 when Smith and his wife agreed to take her into their home. Until the spring of 1978, when the victim moved into the Smiths’ home, she had lived in 22 different foster homes.
According to court documents, the victim was in a fragile state. It was at the Smiths’ home that she felt she was in a “stable environment” for the first time since being under the care of the Catholic Children’s Aid Society (CCAS).
Shortly after the victim moved in, Smith was involved in a car accident that kept him homebound. It was during this period that Smith started making sexual advances toward her.
Between late spring and mid-July of 1978, Smith had intercourse with his 14-year-old foster daughter, three to four separate times. As a result, she became pregnant.
“When I told my CAS worker after the first time I was violated, I was lectured by the worker for lying,” the victim said in her impact statement before the court. “I was left in the care of Mr. Smith who now knew he could continue, which did result in myself getting pregnant.”
When the CCAS became aware the victim was pregnant, she was removed from the Smiths’ home and placed in a home for unwed mothers.
It took 32 years for Smith’s crime to be reported to the police. Back in 1978, even though the victim reported the crime to the CCAS and they were aware she had become pregnant, the CCAS never reported the incidents to any police service. In April 2010, the victim contacted the London Police Service, reporting what happened to her when she was a teenager.
The Toronto Police Service took over the victim’s case and conducted further investigations. After the TPS contacted Smith and informed him of the allegations against him, he consented to providing a DNA sample. With the DNA test confirming Smith as the father of the victim’s child, police arrested and charged him.
Smith pleaded guilty in January to having sexual intercourse with a female under the age of 16 and a related charge. Smith’s sentence: house arrest for two years, followed by three years of probation, during which he is to perform 360 hours of community service.
Despite the fact that Smith had sex with and impregnated his foster daughter, the judge said she believes the conditions of Smith’s sentence are “onerous and can provide significant denunciation and deterrence.”
The victim was not pleased. While the judge read out Smith’s sentence, she stormed out of the court. She described the sentence as “a gold medal” and a “kiss on the cheek.”
“I left the courtroom because I felt that the judge not only let me down, but I felt the judge let down all the future victims of the Children’s Aid Society, all the current victims of the CCAS,” the victim told reporters outside the court house. “I was a kid that was raped by my foster father and nobody would help me… I feel that the judge basically let them know that it was okay to cover it up for 35 years. I don’t think the judge set a very good precedent for all of the victims now. No other victim is going to feel comfortable coming forward.”
The fact that Smith pleaded guilty and consented to a DNA test were among the mitigating factors Kelly considered in her ruling.
“Mr. Smith pleaded guilty to the offences, which is a sign of remorse,” Kelly’s sentence says. “He asked to take the witness stand during the sentencing hearing so that he could face [the victim] and apologize to her personally.”
Aside from Smith’s apology, the judge was moved by letters of support written by his family and friends, especially that of his wife.
“If he had to do it over again, he certainly would have acted more responsibly,” Smith’s wife said in her letter to the court. “His actions were certainly inconsistent with his character. He feels deep anguish for letting [the victim] down and leaving her to raise the child.”
And what does the Catholic Children’s Aid Society have to say about all this?
“We condemn the sexual abuse of any child and in particular, a child that is in the care of the Society,” Mary McConville, executive director of the CCAS of Toronto, wrote in an email.
“The Society is reviewing its records to identify other children, who were placed in [the Smiths’ home as] their foster home, to attempt to determine if they came to any harm. Since the early 80s, the children’s aid societies of the province have been required by the Government of Ontario to have a joint protocol for the investigation of child physical and sexual abuse. Today, a case such as this would be subject to the joint protocol which is designed to recognize the role of police in providing assistance to child protection workers.”
Outside the courtroom, the victim told reporters that she intends to sue Smith and the Catholic Children’s Aid Society.