A legal saga involving a Métis toddler and the B.C. couple who want to adopt her has expanded, with B.C.'s watchdog for children urging the Attorney-General to intervene and the foster parents' lawyer asking for the Supreme Court of Canada to consider the case.
The case concerns a Métis girl who is two years old and has lived with B.C. foster parents since days after she was born.
The foster parents – a Métis woman and her husband – wish to adopt the girl.
But B.C.'s Ministry of Children and Family Development wants to place the girl with two older sisters she has not met and their adoptive parents – who are not Métis – in Ontario, citing the importance of sibling relationships.
The names of the little girl and her foster parents are covered by a publication ban. The couple have so far lost court actions in which they have sought to keep the girl in British Columbia.
In the most recent decision, the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled this month that the provincial Director of Child Welfare has the authority to move the child to Ontario. She is now in a transition foster home and could be moved to Ontario as soon as next week.
In a letter to the B.C. Attorney-General on Thursday, Representative for Children and Youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond asked Suzanne Anton to step in to ensure the girl's cultural rights are properly considered in any placement.
"We are in a new era of child welfare, and aboriginal child welfare, where we should take our time and make sure we have proper input from their community of origin," Ms. Turpel-Lafond said.
"We need to change how we do aboriginal child welfare – and I felt in this case, the aboriginal component was not appropriately managed," she added.
In her letter, Ms. Turpel-Lafond named three specialists who could provide input on Métis adoption and kinship. She has also asked that the child's status with her foster parents be preserved for 30 days until that cultural input is considered.
In response to a request for comment on Ms. Turpel-Lafond's letter, Ms. Anton referred the issue to the Ministry of Children and Family Development, which issued a statement.
"The appeals court of B.C. has spoken with a unanimous decision and upheld the Ministry of Children and Family Development's mandate and authority in this matter," the statement said.
"There is always a transition plan when we move children in care, and the child's best interests must be the paramount consideration in developing that plan. The details of transition plans vary according to the child's circumstance but are always consistent with the child's best interests and include where they reside during the transition," it added.
The provincial Director of Child Welfare "is always open" to the representative's view and "balances those views against the advice and opinions of professionals in the field of child psychology and welfare," the statement concluded.
The case was back in Supreme Court of B.C., Thursday, with the provincial government seeking to dismiss several applications brought on behalf of the foster parents. Separately, their lawyer, Jack Hittrich, said he has applied for leave to the Supreme Court of Canada in hopes his request will be considered soon.
"I'm thinking that they are using an awful lot of technicalities to avoid looking at the best interests of a child," the foster mother said outside the courtroom.
"They're completely ignoring the needs of the child – what child wants to be moved from house to house to house and not be home in bed, with her own family."