British Columbia

Jamaican woman fighting to stop her son's adoption to B.C. family

A Jamaican woman is asking a B.C. judge to stop the adoption of her son to a Canadian family and allow her to regain custody of the boy.

Boy came to Canada with dad 4 years ago, but was seized by social workers after claims of abuse by stepmother

The decision to return a young Jamaican boy to his biological mother or allow him to be adopted into a Canadian family rests in the hands of a B.C. judge. (Getty Images)

A Jamaican woman is asking a judge to stop the adoption of her son to a B.C. family. 

The 38-year-old woman, whom CBC News is not naming to protect the identity of her child, had never left Jamaica until last week, when she flew to B.C. for a court hearing in a last-ditch effort to regain custody.

She encountered snow for the first time after her plane touched down in a city in the southern Interior, where her son is now living in a foster home, having moved to B.C. with his father in 2013. 

'Maybe life would be better'

The child in question spent his early years with his mother in Jamaica.

The boy's father moved to Canada with his son and his new wife after he was offered a job in B.C., according to David Greig, the lawyer representing the mother.

"This presented a dream opportunity for the boy to come with dad to B.C.," said Greig. 

"Everybody thought, maybe life would be better."

The family settled in the Okanagan and the boy was in regular Skype contact with his mother in Jamaica.

B.C. lawyer David Greig is representing a Jamaican woman in her legal battle to regain custody of her son. (contributed)

But less than a year later, the mother heard some shocking news.

Her child had been apprehended by social workers with the Ministry of Children and Family Development after they claimed he was being abused and mistreated by his stepmother.

In 2015 the ministry filed a court application for continuing custody of the child. However, according to Greig, authorities didn't inform his client of what was happening with her son.

"My client wrote to the court and wrote to the ministry and said, 'Here's my address. Here's my email. Here's my phone number... Please let me participate in this process.' But it didn't happen," Greig said.

Best interests of the child

Ministry social workers testified during the court hearing Jan. 24-27 that the boy's mother had signed over custody of her son so that the father could take the boy to Canada — but she did not file an application to regain custody after the boy was taken from the father.

There were also suspicions that the child had been abused before he came to Canada, social workers testified, with the boy reporting "hitting, ear-pulling and spanking" in Jamaica. 

"We made the decision that pursuing [the child] going back to Jamaica was not in the best interest of [the boy]," testified Nicole Henderson, a team leader with the ministry.

Greig disputed the abuse claims and told the court that social workers never bothered to question the mother about how she raised her son.

The ministry wouldn't comment specifically on the case. In a written statement, the ministry said it makes every effort to place children with parents or extended family whenever possible but it may pursue adoption when placement with family has not been deemed safe or in the best interests of the child.

'I can give him a good life'

The woman who is fostering the child and seeking to adopt him also testified at the hearing.

"I knew that he loved me and trusted me and felt safe with me and that's the most important thing in life," said the woman, whom CBC News is also not naming to protect the child's identity.

"I can give him a good life."

Both the foster mother and the social workers testified the boy has said on several occasions that he wants to stay in B.C. with his new family.

Greig argued that's because the mother hasn't had much access to her son for 4½ years.

"His memories have all been completely in the absence of his mother's presence," he said.

'We were hugging, talking and laughing'

​After testimony concluded last week, the Jamaican mother was able to meet her son in a supervised visit.

"I was really happy," she told CBC News.

"He was waving to me through the window before I even reached the door and when I reached the door we were hugging, talking and laughing."

Later this week the judge will interview the child, before lawyers submit their closing arguments. The judge's decision is expected in four to six weeks.

About the Author

Brady Strachan

CBC Reporter

Brady Strachan is a CBC reporter based in Kelowna, B.C. Besides Kelowna, Strachan has covered stories for CBC News in Winnipeg, Brandon, Vancouver and internationally. Follow his tweets @BradyStrachan