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

Brush fire breaks out near Taylor Arm Park

Fire forces partial closure of Highway 4 west of Port Alberni

Rosalind Chapman seeks seat on Port Alberni city council

Community volunteer and longtime Alberni Valley resident Rosalind Chapman will seek a… Continue reading

Accident causes power outage on Beaver Creek Road

One sent to West Coast General Hospital in crash

Inside the music: step behind the curtain at the venerable Vancouver Island Music Festival

Big Read: VIMF in the Comox Valley exemplifies the spirit of an Island summer music festival

Save-On-Foods donates to summer kids’ program in Port Alberni

Food bank takes over from breakfast programs once summer vacation starts

Here’s what you need to know about Day 2 at the BC Games

From equestrian to volleyball to swimming, all 18 events in full swing here in the Cowichan Valley

Accident on Vancouver Island after artillery gun rolls down hill and damages taxi

Witness says accident happend about 1 p.m. Saturday; RCMP investigating

B.C. mining company, involved in 2014 spill, ordered to pay lost wages

Mount Polley Mining Company must pay wages to 26 employees who were laid off without proper notice

Two significant wildfires burning in southeastern B.C.

More than 20 fires were burning in the Southeast Fire Centre as of Saturday afternoon

Volunteers provide the glue that keeps BC Games moving

The 2018 Cowichan Summer Games had more than 2,300 volunteers on hand across Vancouver Island

No Name brand chicken nuggets recalled due to possible salmonella

Canadian Food Inspection Agency says multiple illnesses reported in B.C., Alberta and Ontario

Lodeiro scores twice to help Sounders beat Whitecaps 2-0

Seattle’s Nicolas Lodeiro opened the scoring in the fifth minute when he converted a penalty kick

Race walker breaks 18-year-old BC Games record

Zone 6 athlete Olivia Lundman crossed finish line with ease, to loud cheers in Cowichan

PHOTO GALLERY: BC Games Day 2

A brief look at action from the 2018 BC Summer Games in the Cowichan Valley

Most Read