Motion granted. A child in temporary custody with a Children’s Aid Society is determined to be First Nations. Although the father is not eligible for membership, the First Nation believes that the father, and therefore the child, is affiliated with that community.
The Children’s Aid Society of Algoma [“Society”] has brought a motion regarding a less than one year old child identification as a First Nations child and if the child identifies with the Batchewana First Nation [“BFN”]. Relief sought also includes an order that adds the BFN as a party respondent to this proceeding and an order that transfers the conduct of the application to the Nogdawindamin Family and Community Services [“NFCS”] as applicant. Thus, the proceeding shall continue as though commenced by NFCS in replacement of the Society, with an order transferring the interim care of the child from the Society to the NFCS. The band representative of the BFN, with consent of all parties, made submissions that they be heard given the potential ramifications of the outcome of the motion.
The Society brought a protection application before the Court and an interim without prejudice order was made that placed the child in its temporary care and custody. The parents have access to the child that is subject to a mandatory minimum number of hours along with multiple terms and conditions applicable to the parents during the exercise of any access. Initially the parents did not claim to be Indigenous to the Society upon its involvement. The Society, at that time, understood that the child was not eligible for registration or identified with any First Nations, Métis or Inuit band or community. The mother filed an addendum to the plan of care that stated the father found out he has some family with Indigenous connections, including an association with the BFN. The mother indicated that she herself practices various traditional Indigenous teachings and self-identifies with the BFN on that basis. The BFN Representative for Child Welfare [“Band Rep.”], however, did not find a community connection for the father and he is not eligible for membership with the BFN. However, that does not exclude the possibility of affiliation as the BFN believes that the father is affiliated with that First Nation.
The preamble of the Child and Youth Family Services Act [“CYFSA”] is intended to be inclusive and to facilitate broad interpretations in order to recognize cultural, hereditary and traditional connections. The intent of the legislation, as read by this Court, is to avoid creating rigid barriers that would discourage persons from self-identifying. It is to promote self-identification and pride in being a First Nations person, even if this did not occur for one or more generations in the past. Under the CYFSA, it is possible for a child to identify as First Nations and not be a member of an Indigenous band or community (Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa v NP). A child’s identification as First Nations, regardless of membership, is important as there are many considerations under the CYFSA for Indigenous children.
As well, s 21 of the Ontario Regulations 156/18 [“O Reg 156/18”] directs the Court to accept hearsay evidence on this issue (Children’s Aid Society of Algoma v CA; CP and the Batchewana First Nation). This does not mean that all rules of evidence and some standard of proof does not apply. There must be evidence in relation to the child as to whether access is beneficial and meaningful to the child (Children’s Aid Society of the Regional Municipality of Waterloo v CT). Subsection 2(3) Article 1 of the CYFSA indicates that the person who has an ethnic, cultural or creedal ties in common with the child or the parent or relative of the child, is a member of the child’s community. Article 2 speaks of a person who has a beneficial and meaningful relationship with the child. The words “beneficial and meaningful” are used nine times in the CYFSA, however, those words are not defined by the CYFSA. While this proceeding is regarding the quality of the care being provided by the parents for the child, the interim without prejudice order provides the parents and the child with access to each other. In its protection application, the Society sought an order that each parent have access with the child. There has been no motion to terminate that access for either parent or that this access has been detrimental to the child. This indicates that there is some beneficial and meaningful relationship between each parent and the child. Accordingly, while it may seem intuitive, this supports a finding that each parent is a member of the child’s community.
Each parent has provided evidence of self-identification as an Indigenous person. The mother has provided evidence that she practices traditional Indigenous teachings and has an “association” with the BFN. There is no evidence, however, that the mother has any link beyond her personal choice and the evidence does not assist in creating an identification link between the child and the BFN (Children’s Aid Society of the Regional Municipality of Waterloo v CT). There is evidence that the father identifies as a First Nations person.
The O Reg 156/18 promotes the acceptance of hearsay evidence. The Court accepts the father’s evidence regarding his maternal grandfather and his own identification as an Indigenous person. Other evidence before this Court does not contradict that evidence and it is proof that meets the standard of being on a balance of probabilities. This is a recent awakening by the father, but it is not contradicted by any other evidence. The BFN intends to be inviting of the father and, in turn, the child. The BFN seeks to be involved in this proceeding and the level of involvement will be determined by the First Nation. It is appropriate that the BFN be added as a responding party in this proceeding and that the NFCS be substituted, in place of the Society, as the applicant. The Court finds the child is a First Nation’s child and the Society’s motion is granted. An order is made that the BFN is made a party to and respondent in this proceeding.