OTTAWA – The Supreme Court of Canada is set to decide the fate of a Saskatchewan woman who gave birth in a Walmart bathroom stall and left the newborn in a toilet.
April Halkett was found not guilty in June 2009 of abandoning the baby boy two years earlier in the store in Prince Albert, Sask.
But the Crown disagreed with the verdict and took the case to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, which upheld the findings of a trial judge.
The judge said he believed Halkett’s testimony that she didn’t know she was pregnant and left the store because she thought the child was dead.
Lawyers for the Saskatchewan government argued before the province’s highest court that the mother had a duty to take reasonable steps to determine if her baby, who was later placed in foster care, was alive.
The Crown pointed out that the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal was, at that point, the highest court in Canada to hear the case, and its decision has created a legal question that is national in scope.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to deliver its judgment Friday.
In doing so, it will fall to the justices to decide if they, too, believe Halkett.
Halkett testified that she didn’t know she was expecting a baby because she tested negative three times on home pregnancy tests and she was still getting her period.
She said it came as a shock in the bathroom stall when blood started running down her leg and a baby dropped into the toilet.
A woman in the next stall heard grunts and saw a pool of blood on the floor. She knocked on the wall and asked Halkett if she was OK. Halkett replied that she was.
Halkett told the court she thought the child was dead because of its blue pallor and the fact that it wasn’t moving. She tried to clean up the mess with toilet paper and left the store without talking to anyone.
Moments later, two women in the washroom saw a tiny, purple hand poking out of the bloody bathroom tissue that filled the toilet.
The store manager pulled the baby out and paramedics helped him start breathing.
Police released surveillance-camera photos of the mystery mother. Halkett came forward soon after upon learning the baby had survived.