Estate & Family Law Blog

Indigenous rights to custody can be barriers in foster care


Two British Columbian Métis advocacy groups have taken opposite sides of a custody dispute involving a Métis toddler. Meanwhile, a little girl’s future hangs in the balance.

The dictionary defines Métis as people “of mixed American Indian and Euro-American ancestry… who in the 19th century constituted the… Métis nation … around the Red and Saskatchewan rivers.”

This particular case focuses on the future custody of a child who has lived with her Métis foster parents since birth, but was to fly to Ontario earlier this month to live with her two siblings in the home they share with their adoptive non-Métis parents. That move, however, was delayed after the B.C. Métis Federation petitioned the Justice Minister to return custody of the little girl to the only family she has ever known.

Their petition stated that the child was “a member of our BCMF Metis Community and we demand she be returned to her Métis adoptive family as approved by our community.”

The group told the minister that Canada is experiencing an uptick in self-determinism and shared relationships among First Nations and Métis. They believe removing the child from her Métis home is an affront to these efforts.

The president of the federation requests the provincial government take “immediate action” to prevent the proposed actions that are perceived as “inconsistent with International law on the rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

But the Métis Commission for Children and Family of B.C., while criticising how the matter has been handled, endorses the child moving to Ontario to live with her siblings. Their press release states that the group believes “family is the first option for placement.”

The Métis Commission disapproves of the way this –and many other cases of Métis children — get handled under the auspices of the Child Welfare Director here in B.C.

It claims that cases take too long to resolve, allowing youngsters to remain too long and become bonded with non-Métis foster care families.

The Ministry of Children and Family Services planned to fly the toddler to Ontario on Sept. 25, taking her away from the only parents she has ever known. They planned to transfer custody to a non-Métis couple who reared her two siblings.

Fighting government agencies over the custody of your children can be made easier with a knowledgeable lawyer on your team.

Source: CBC News, “B.C. Métis leaders at odds over removal of Métis foster child,” Yvette Brend and Eric Rankin, Sep. 26, 2016

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