Restraining order granted preventing the Respondents from contact with a child they claim to have customarily adopted. Decision as to other matters on reserve.
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The British Columbia Director of Child, Family and Community Services [“Director”], requested a restraining order against the Respondents [“Foster Parents”] pursuant to s 35 of the Children’s Law Reform Act. This interim and without prejudice order restrains the Foster Parents from communicating or coming near their former foster child, her school and any other place where the child may reasonably be expected to be. Further procedural relief was granted, including a sealing order and a publication ban.
On June 22, 2018, the Foster Parents became aware of the child’s school she was attending in Ontario. They approached the child in the playground and provided the issued credentials of their status as child protection representatives for the BC Métis Federation’s child protection service. The school staff went into lockdown and called the police. The child was traumatized from the experience, but the Foster Parents insisted they were not the source of the trauma and that the school overreacted. The Director has brought this application to the Court as a result from this event, but also the prior history involving the parties, as she is afraid the Foster Parents will attempt another apprehension.
When the child was born in 2013, she was removed from the care of her birth parents the day after her birth. She was then placed with the Foster Parents under a Family Home Care Agreement. Eventually a continuing custody order [“CCO”] was established on July 6, 2015. A CCO is analogous to an order of Crown Wardship in the province of Ontario, and conferred lawful custody of the child with the Director. It is deemed to be an order of the court and is enforceable as such. The Director has the authority to remove a child under the Child, Family and Community Service Act, if she has reasonable grounds to believe that the child needs protection and there is no other measure available. Since the Director removed the child from the Foster Parent’s care, the child has resided in Ontario in a non-Métis adoptive home with her biological sisters.
The Foster Parents brought three subsequent petitions since 2015 for the adoption of the child. The first one was dismissed, the second was also dismissed on the grounds of res judicata. The third petition sought various declarations, including another order to adopt the child, but had a reference to custom adoption as well as an order for certiorari quashing the transfer of the child to Ontario for adoption. On the denial of that application, the birth parents, the Foster Parents, and the BC Métis Federation, filed a fourth petition [“Petition #4”] for a declaration that the Foster Parents have already adopted the child by way of a custom adoption.
This application was inconsistent with the prior petitions advanced by the Foster Parents, considering there is recognition of custom adoption under s 46 of the Adoption Act. The Foster Parents claimed they were unaware until very recently that their actions constituted a valid Aboriginal custom adoption which could be recognized by the courts. The court, however, did not accept these submissions and determined Petition #4 was an abuse of process and should be struck.
On the appeal of AS v BC (Director of Child, Family and Community Services), new evidence disclosed that a custom adoption commissioner [“Commissioner”] in the Northwest Territories [“NWT”], pursuant to s 2 of the Aboriginal Custom Adoption Recognition Act, had issued a custom adoption certificate. It declared that the Foster Parents adopted the child by way of Aboriginal custom adoption in 2013 which is deemed to be an order of that court. Through this, the Foster Parents obtained pursuant to the Vital Statistics Act, a British Columbia birth certificate for the child listing them as her parents. The Director had no knowledge of the proceedings in the NWT or the issuance of the BC birth certificate and filed an originating notice for judicial review in the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories [“NWT Supreme Court”].
The British Columbia Court of Appeal [“BCCA”] stayed the appeal of S(A) v BC (Director of Child, Family and Community Services) to await the judicial review decision of the NWT Supreme Court that is on reserve. In the meantime, there is an interim, without prejudice order prohibiting the use of the NWT custom adoption certificate or its associated documents such as the BC birth certificate, by any party to gain access or custody to the child.
To decide such matters in this application at this time, while the NWT Supreme Court’s decision, the BC Court of Appeal’s decision, and the ultimate fate of Petition #4 is unknown, would be inappropriate and an abuse of process. It undermines the credibility of the courts if a judicial tribunal hears the same evidence in a different trial on the same issues, as there is potential for conflicting results (Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa (City) v M(G)).
The Foster Parents have clearly demonstrated that they are not prepared to wait for their claims to be fully adjudicated in a court of law, and will resort to self-help remedies without notification to the courts. On a balance of probabilities, the Director has reasonable grounds to fear for the safety of the child in her lawful custody and is granted the restraining order. The order made is without prejudice to the Foster Parents right to seek its termination or to vary it once the decisions of the two other courts have been released and the fate of Petition #4 becomes known.