A British Columbia foster mother says there are no words to describe her loss after the provincial government removed a Métis 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 British Columbia’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, whom she has never met.
The foster parents cannot be named in order to protect the identity of the child, who is nearly 3 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,” the foster mother said in an e-mail. “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 are refusing to give up their fight to adopt the little girl. Mr. Hittrich said they have filed leave to appeal with the Supreme Court of Canada, and have another petition before the Supreme Court of British Columbia.
The case has raised cultural issues as the foster mother is Métis, while the adoptive parents in Ontario are not.
The foster mother said that according to Métis customs, she and her husband have already adopted the girl.
But the woman said the ministry contracted a Métis agency to hold a cultural ceremony for the toddler on Wednesday. She said the ceremony was part of the Métis 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 Métis people or traditions,” she said. “They can’t just try to readopt our daughter to someone else when we have already adopted her.”
She said aboriginal laws are protected under the Canadian constitution, but the ministry has instead chosen to “ignore” the child’s rights and waste taxpayer money fighting the placement of a happy Métis girl in a loving Métis 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.
The ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but Minister Stephanie Cadieux has said previously that the ministry always deploys a transition plan when moving a foster child to a permanent adoptive home.
The plan usually involves gradually introducing the child to their new caregivers, through phone calls and visits, she has said.
Ms. Cadieux has also said the ministry is legally required to prioritize a child’s aboriginal heritage when placing them. It must obtain approval from a committee of First Nations, Métis and child-welfare representatives before placing an aboriginal child in a non-aboriginal home.
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, Mr. Hittrich said.
The foster parents and the BC Métis Federation have filed a petition in B.C. Supreme Court arguing that the Métis family already adopted the girl according to aboriginal customs, Mr. Hittrich said.
The province has filed a motion to strike the petition, which will be heard Thursday, Mr. Hittrich said.
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 BC Métis 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.”Report Typo/Error