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British Columbia Foster parents lose bid to keep Metis toddler in B.C.; lawyer files appeal

A two-year-old Metis girl at the heart of a court fight between her foster parents and the B.C. government walks with her foster father in Victoria, B.C. in January, 2016.

THE CANADIAN PRESS

Foster parents in British Columbia have lost their court battle to keep a Metis toddler they have raised since birth in the province.

Their lawyer, Jack Hittrich, said he has filed an appeal and a hearing on a temporary injunction to keep the two-year-old girl in B.C. is scheduled for Monday.

The Vancouver Island couple had filed a petition to prevent the Children's Ministry from moving the two-year-old girl to Ontario to live with older siblings whom she has never met.

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The foster mother is Metis, while the caregivers in Ontario are not, raising questions about whether the toddler is better off with parents who share her cultural background or her blood relatives.

Hittrich said a B.C. Supreme Court judge has ruled that the petition is an abuse of process since a similar one filed by the couple was dismissed last year.

He said the foster mother, who can't be identified, is so distraught that she is considering buying a house in Ontario to be close to the little girl.

"She's really looking at everything under the sun, and desperately clinging on," he said Tuesday. "It's pretty traumatic for everyone."

The couple is extremely disappointed and upset but determined to fight the decision in the Court of Appeal, Hittrich added.

The ministry have set up a meeting with the couple for Wednesday to discuss a "transition plan" for the toddler, he said.

"We don't have all the details, but they have a plan in place and I imagine they're going to be moving pretty quickly after Monday if we're to lose."

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The ministry said in a statement that it could not comment on specific cases, but noted that B.C.'s child-welfare legislation dictates that the safety and well-being of children is the chief consideration.

By law, the ministry must prioritize placing aboriginal children in aboriginal homes. If that's not possible or deemed to be in the child's best interest, the department must seek approval from a committee of First Nations, Metis and child-welfare representatives.

The Metis Commission for Children and Families of B.C. sits on the committee and has said a cultural plan was worked out to ensure the Metis community remains involved in the child's life.

The B.C. Metis Federation, which has more than 1,600 members, has been supporting the foster parents in the court fight.

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