B.C. Métis leaders at odds over removal of Métis foster child

B.C. Métis Federation is demanding that a toddler removed from her foster family be returned, while other leaders say the province needs move faster, and consult more, in cases like this.

'We demand she be returned to her Métis adoptive family,' said B.C. Métis Federation

The toddler at the heart of the custody controversy, before being removed from the home of Métis foster parents. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

The Métis toddler at the centre of a custody dispute remains in limbo — somewhere in B.C. — while all sides fight over where she will grow up.

She was scheduled to be flown to her new family Sept. 23, but that has been delayed, while a renewed battle over her future ensues.

This weekend the B.C. Métis Federation demanded Justice Minister Suzanne Anton return the child to the foster family where the girl – known only as S.S.— has lived since birth.

B.C. Métis Federation demand return

The federation moved that: "SS is a member of our BCMF Metis Community and we demand she be returned to her Métis adoptive family as approved by our community."

A letter to the minister explains Canada is seeing a resurgence of historical Métis and First Nations definitions of "kinship," self-determinism and shared relations. The decision to remove this child flies in the face of that.

"I write to seek your immediate intervention regarding the Métis foster child we refer to as "SS," said Keith Henry, president of the B.C.Métis Federation. 

"This situation demands immediate action by the Provincial Government. The ongoing and proposed actions by MCFD to remove our Métis children without our consent is inconsistent with International law on the rights of Indigenous Peoples," said Henry in the written release.

Métis Commission endorses move, but critical of handling

Another Métis group — the Métis Commission for Children and Family of B.C.— endorses the plan to move the girl to Ontario to be with two siblings.

"We believe that family is the first option for placement," wrote Eva Coles in a press release.

But even this organization, which receives the bulk of its funding from the province, decries how this case and many of the other 800 cases of Métis children under the care of the Child Welfare Director are handled in B.C.

The commission says many are taking too long to get resolved, letting young children stay too long and get too bonded with foster care families.

"The courts are backed up and social workers are so overburdened that they are leaving children in foster care far longer than they need to be. The cultural knowledge/training for these MCFD staff is sorely lacking and often contributes to these disputes. To add to this MCFD and RCY have made it clear that BC aboriginal communities cannot be trusted to make their own decisions," said Coles in a release.

The saga of SS

The Ministry of Children and Family Services planned to move the child last Sunday from B.C. to Ontario, removing her from the foster home where she has lived since birth.

The plan was to transfer her to a family where her two siblings have grown up with a non-Métis couple.

This move came, despite an ongoing court battle about her future.Then B.C.'s child advocate called on the attorney general to intervene in the case.

The child's foster parents have filed numerous court challenges to keep her. 

On Sept. 22 the ministry asked a B.C. Supreme Court judge to reject the couple's request for a review of the most recent decision. The judge reserved judgement.

None of the parties involved can be identified because of a court-ordered publication ban.