The foster mother of a two-year-old girl says she fears the toddler will suffer lasting psychological harm if the British Columbia government moves her to Ontario.
The woman, who cannot be named, said she always knew that the Ministry of Children and Family Development had planned to move the girl across the country to live with her older siblings, who she has never met.
But she said the ministry "mishandled" the case and took too long to make the arrangements. In the meantime, the little girl has bonded with the only family she has ever known, she said.
"A bond with a child that you've spent night and day with since she was born is very strong. It's an emotional bond that goes beyond words," the woman said in an interview Friday.
She and her husband have filed a court petition to stop the ministry from moving the girl. The foster mother is Metis, while the guardians in Ontario are not, raising questions about whether the toddler is better off with biological siblings or with a parent who shares her cultural background.
"When you're in a family that shares that culture, the culture is able to come in a natural way and be a part of you. Whereas when you're in a family that doesn't share that culture, they may try to expose you to it, but it's not the same," said the woman.
She said the girl doesn't know that adults are in court fighting over her future. She fears that if moved, the toddler will suffer reactive attachment disorder, a lasting condition that makes it hard for people to form long-term emotional bonds.
"It's been mishandled and the child should not be the one who suffers. This has never been about us, this has always been about the child."
She added that the girl's biological parents live in B.C. and support her staying with the foster parents.
Lawyer Jack Hittrich is asking a B.C. Supreme Court judge for an interim order to keep the girl in the care of the foster parents until a full hearing on their petition can be held later this year.
Hittrich told the judge Friday that moving the girl across the country, and then possibly moving her back if the petition is successful, would harm her emotionally and mentally.
"There's overwhelming evidence before you that the disruption of the status quo, pending the full hearing of the current petition, is simply not in the best interests of this little girl," he said.
"Allowing a move to parents she has never met, who are truly strangers to her ... and then moving her back, if the relief on appeal or the petition is successful, could be even more harmful to her."
He said he has reports from psychologists who say the girl could suffer reactive attachment disorder, evidence that government lawyers have said is hearsay.
Leah Greathead, representing the Ministry of Children and Family Development, said a judge has already dismissed a similar petition by the foster parents and asking a second judge to rule on the matter is "pure craziness."
Her co-counsel Tyna Mason told court the ministry has sole guardianship of the child and the decision to move her was made based on her best interests.
Hittrich has said the best interests of the child should be determined in this case by a court, not by the ministry in a "unilateral decision."