Metis toddler removed from B.C. foster parents, to be moved to Ontario later

Metis toddler removed from foster mom's care

HASH(0xb3e43c)

HASH(0xb3e43c)

VANCOUVER — A British Columbia foster mother says there are no words to describe her loss after the provincial government removed a Metis toddler she has raised almost since birth from her care.

The woman’s lawyer says the Ministry of Children and Family Development moved the little girl to a local transition home on Sunday, after the foster parents lost two appeals in B.C.’s highest court.

Lawyer Jack Hittrich said the ministry plans to move the toddler to Ontario next week to live with her older sisters and adoptive parents, who she has never met.

The foster parents cannot be named in order to protect the identity of the child, who is nearly three and has been in the Vancouver Island couple’s care since she was two days old.

“She was thriving. She was happy. She was loved,” said the foster mother in an email. “She was growing in a community where she would know her birth parents and her culture. And now the ministry has stripped her of all of it.”

The couple is refusing to give up their fight to adopt the little girl. Hittrich said they have filed leave to appeal with the Supreme Court of Canada, and have another petition before B.C. Supreme Court.

The case has raised cultural issues as the foster mother is Metis, while the adoptive parents in Ontario are not.

The foster mother said that according to Metis customs, she and her husband have already adopted the girl.

But the woman said the ministry contracted a Metis agency to hold a cultural ceremony for the toddler on Wednesday. She said the ceremony was part of the Metis adoption process and was part of the ministry’s plan to adopt the girl to the Ontario couple.

“This ceremony is a sham and is not representative of our Metis people or traditions,” she said. “They can’t just try to re-adopt our daughter to someone else when we have already adopted her.”

She said aboriginal laws are protected under the Constitution, but the ministry has instead chosen to “ignore” the child’s rights and waste taxpayer money fighting the placement of a happy Metis girl in a loving Metis home.”

“We love our daughter. We fear for her. We fear that she will not understand. We fear that she wonders why we aren’t coming to pick her up. She has no idea how much we want to,” she said.

“We are fighting back the tears constantly and trying to stay strong for her.”

Under B.C. law, the ministry is the girl’s legal guardian and it has the authority to select her adoptive parents.

A ministry spokesperson said in a statement that a child’s best interests supersede all other considerations when deciding where they will be placed.

“In general, the relationships children have with their siblings are the most lasting of any relationships they’ll experience in their lifetimes,” the statement said. 

“Enabling and protecting those relationships is a key consideration in determining the child’s best interests â€” as is the importance of preserving the child’s cultural identity.”

When the ministry considers placing an aboriginal child with a non-aboriginal family, a social worker must obtain approval from a committee of First Nations, Metis and child welfare representatives, the statement said.

It added that some children are allowed to remain in contact with their former foster families, if all parties agree and the contact is in the child’s best interest.

The foster mother has not seen the little girl since Sunday, as she declined an invitation to the cultural ceremony on Wednesday. The ministry has invited the foster parents to visit her in Ontario once she is settled with her new adoptive family, Hittrich said. 

The foster parents and the B.C. Metis Federation have filed a petition in B.C. Supreme Court arguing that the Metis family already adopted the girl according to aboriginal customs, Hittrich said.

The province has filed a motion to strike the petition, which will be heard Thursday, said Hittrich.

Two other petitions filed by the couple have already been dismissed. Last week, those decisions were upheld in a unanimous decision by a five-judge panel of the B.C. Court of Appeal.

Keith Henry, president of the B.C. Metis Federation, compared the situation to the Sixties Scoop, when thousands of aboriginal children were placed with mostly non-aboriginal families.

“What’s different about this?” he asked. “We’d like to think as a society that we’ve come so much further … It’s backwards and we have to put a stop to it.”

— Follow @ellekane on Twitter.

Laura Kane, The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Esquimalt High School is one of six Greater Victoria schools that reported a COVID-19 exposure over the weekend. (Black Press Media file photo)
Six new Greater Victoria school exposures reported over weekend

Steady rise in school exposures since return from spring break

The District of North Saanich has issued a notice to remove this floating structure from the waters off Lillan Hoffar Park. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Boat owner ordered to vacate waters off North Saanich park

Couple have been living in floating structure off Lillian Hoffar Park for a number of years

Paramedic Matthew Schlatter of Victoria is living a fuller life today due to the double lung transplant he received in 2019. He encourages B.C. residents to register as an organ donor and let their families know their wishes. (Instagram/Matthew Schlatter)
Victoria man living a full, active life after double lung transplant

Matt Schlatter encourages people to register as an organ donor to help others live

Passengers in rows four to 10 onboard WestJet flight 449 from Calgary to Victoria April 6 were exposed to a case of COVID-19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Flight from Calgary to Victoria added to COVID-19 exposure list

Passengers onboard WestJet flight 449 April 6 affected

Victoria Police’s Explosive Disposal Unit came to Oak Bay April 10 to destroy a potentially dangrous explosive device that washed up on shore. (Oak Bay RCMP photo)
Washed-up explosive device destroyed by VicPD bomb squad

An Oak Bay resident called in the potentially dangerous debris

People take part in an anti-curfew protest in Montreal on Sunday April 11, 2021. Hundreds of people gathered in Old Montreal tonight in defiance of a new 8 p.m. curfew. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Giuseppe Valiante
VIDEO: Hundreds defy Montreal’s 8 p.m. curfew in violent, destructive protest

Quebec reported 1,535 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, as well as five additional deaths linked to the virus

Organ donation form from BC Transplant. (BC Transplant)
POLL: Have you registered as an organ donor?

They number 1.5 million strong and growing. But their numbers still fall… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of April 6

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

People walk past the Olympic rings in Whistler, B.C., Friday, May 15, 2020. Whistler which is a travel destination for tourists around the world is seeing the effects of travel bans due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Adults living, working in Whistler, B.C., eligible for COVID-19 vaccine on Monday

The move comes as the province deals with a rush of COVID-19 and variant cases in the community

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
UPDATE: RCMP investigating after child, 6, dies at motel in Duncan, B.C.

The BC Coroners Service is conducting its own investigation into the circumstances around the child’s death

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations near Vancouver Island

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia’s opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan’s government, but they say Monday’s throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province’s economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

Farnworth said the budget will include details of government investment in communities and infrastructure

Most Read