Judge rules foster parents may keep caring for Metis toddler on Vancouver Island

Foster parents win continued care of Metis toddler

VANCOUVER — A Vancouver Island couple who feared a Metis toddler was about to be removed from their home say they will hug the little girl in celebration after a judge ruled they can keep her in their care for now.

The foster parents’ battle to win the right to adopt the two-and-a-half-year-old is nowhere close to being over after the decision on Friday that granted the interim order.

Justice Mary Newbury of the British Columbia Court of Appeal ruled the toddler should remain in her current home, rather than be moved to live with biological siblings in Ontario. Newbury said her intent was to “preserve the status quo” until appeals in the case are decided.

She said her aim is to prevent the girl from being moved out of province with the possibility she could be sent back to B.C.

“It seems to me (the child) is entitled at least to a second opinion of this court … as to whether the foster parents should be precluded from being seriously considered as adoptive parents,” Newbury said from the bench.

Outside court, the girl’s foster father said the couple are getting worn down emotionally but the decision gives them some breathing space.

“And now we have to formulate a compelling argument that sees her placed with us. That’s the end game,” said the man, who cannot be named to protect the child’s identity. 

A lawyer for B.C.’s Children’s Ministry had argued its director is the child’s sole guardian and has unilateral discretion to determine where the child should ultimately be placed.

Court heard that under the Adoption Act and other provincial legislation, foster parents are not permitted to apply to adopt their wards. They may only get permanent custody if the director decides it’s in the child’s best interests.

The ministry believes the child should be moved to live with her two sisters, who she has never met.

Lawyer Leah Greathead, representing the Children’s Ministry, argued that biological ties outweigh the fact the girl has formed bonds with the couple in B.C.

The girl has lived with her foster parents since just after her birth. But her case has raised cultural issues because the foster mother is Metis, while her potential adoptive parents in Ontario are not.

Court heard the out-of-province family only learned their own adopted children had Metis heritage after the B.C. toddler’s case went to court.

Greathead declined to comment after the ruling.

No dates have been scheduled yet for the appeal, but Newbury urged that the case proceed expeditiously. The girl’s young age means the more time that passes before she has a permanent home will affect her well-being, say her foster parents.

“That’s what (her) physicians say, that’s what all the research says and add the cultural component and it’s hard to see how any other result would be just,” said the foster father.

Two judges have ruled against the couple’s bid for permanent guardianship in earlier cases in B.C. Supreme Court. The first dismissed their petition based on the existing provincial legislation, while the second ruled it was abuse-of-process to argue the case a second time.

The couple’s lawyer said Newbury’s decision is a big victory because she recommended both appeals be heard together by a panel of five judges instead of the usual three.

Jack Hittrich said he’s hopeful the panel will review B.C.’s adoption legislation, which he said gives unfettered discretion to the director and bars the courts from deciding who can adopt.

“This is a great day for equity and fairness, as opposed to technical rules,” he said outside court. “It is a victory for all foster children in a situation where the director appears to have absolute control over the adoption process.”

— Follow @TamsynBurgmann on Twitter

Tamsyn Burgmann, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Tseshaht First Nation athlete honoured with provincial sports award

Rain Thomas competes in three different sports

Alberni Valley firefighters pass the boot for Muscular Dystrophy

Annual fundraiser started in 1967 with Port Alberni Fire Department

Cougars spotted in Sproat Lake neighbourhoods

ACRD director warns residents to keep children, pets close

Who are the Frozen Franklins? Find out at the Alberni Valley Museum

The museum and Echoes in the Ice exhibit are open April 20 during Easter weekend

Former teacher returns to Port Alberni to lead Alzheimer’s Walk

Jory Mitchell celebrates his journey with late wife and her Alzheimer’s diagnosis

Sri Lanka invokes war-time military powers after nearly 300 killed in Easter bombings

Sri Lanka’s minister of tourism says 39 foreign tourists were killed in the Easter Sunday attacks

Bodies of 3 mountain climbers recovered after last week’s Banff avalanche

The men disappeared while attempting to climb the east face of Howse Peak in the Icefields Parkway

Happy birthday: Queen Elizabeth II turns 93 on Easter Sunday

Sunday is the first of two birthday celebrations each year for the queen

RCMP confirm witnesses say body found at Kelowna’s Gyro Beach

Police tape is blocking part of the beach and several RCMP officers are on scene.

B.C. fire department rescues kittens

Enderby homeowner not aware kittens in wood pile near garbage pile fire that got out of hand

QUIZ: How much do you know about Easter?

Take this short quiz and put your knowledge to the test

B.C. VIEWS: NDP’s lawyer show is turning into a horror movie

Court actions pile up over pipelines, car insurance, care aides

Global Affairs warns Canadians in Sri Lanka there could be more attacks

A series of bomb blasts killed at least 207 people and injured hundreds more

Most Read