The decision of the Respondent to refuse the adoption of three Indigenous children placed in the Applicant’s care is confirmed under s 192 of the Child, Youth and Family Services Act.
The Applicant requested a review pursuant to s 192 of the Child, Youth and Family Services Act, [“Act”]. This application refers to a decision made in favour of the Respondent, Kunuwanimano Child and Family Services, [“KCFS”] who refused the Applicant’s application to adopt three children who were placed in her care for two years. The children were apprehended from the care of their parents by the North Eastern Ontario Child and Family Services and made Crown Wards without access for the purpose of adoption. The children’s mother, who is deceased, and their father have membership with the Fort Albany First Nation [“FAFN”]. The children’s files were transferred to the KCFS, an Indigenous child welfare agency and were subsequently placed in a foster home. After three years the foster home could no longer care for the children due to uncontrollable circumstances. The children were then placed in the care of the Applicant and remained in her care for almost two years until their abrupt removal.
The Child and Family Services Review Board’s [“CFSRB”] determination is made in accordance with the expanded definition of the test for the best interests of the child set out in s 179(2) of the Act. In addition to giving prominence to the child’s views and wishes, as well as the recognition of Indigenous cultures and connections to their community, the preamble of the Act also acknowledges that children are individuals with rights to be respected and voices to be heard.
SV, who is the most recent placement for the children, is a member of the Moose Cree First Nation and grew up alongside the children’s father. The evidence is clear that SV has strong connections to the children’s community and cultural heritage. Her practices are traditional in her home where the children are introduced to hunting and fishing and that this was consistent with a way of life, rather than simply an activity. She has taken significant measures to connect the children to their extended family with whom she is well acquainted.
In contrast, the Applicant has no significant ties to the children’s First Nations community or extended family. The Applicant knows very little about the cultural practices of the children’s Indigenous community, or the Illilu people. It was clear that she cares deeply for the children and wishes to adopt all three of them. Her evidence, supported by report cards and the agency’s own documents, was that they were well-cared for in her home and had developed a bond with her and her family. The views and wishes of the children also confirmed the strong bond that the children have with the Applicant. The abrupt removal of the children from her care was traumatic for her and also for the children.
The CFSRB, however, is also mindful of the view of family and community that is expressed by the FAFN and the emphasis on customary care alternatives for Indigenous children under the Act. It is also through the current placement that the children are reconnecting with their father, albeit not as a primary caregiver. While SV is not a direct relation to the children, it is clear that she has strong historical and current connections to the children’s extended family and is committed to facilitating their relationships with family as much as possible. The Applicant simply cannot offer the same commitment and ease of connection to family as SV.
Of considerable importance to our determination is the connection between the siblings. They have always been together and expressed a wish to remain that way. The CFSRB finds that to separate the Children at this time would not be in their best interests and along with all the above factors, favours confirmation of the Respondents’ position. The CFSRB, however, is also of the view the children were not given the opportunity to properly say good-bye to the Applicant and suggested that the KCFS facilitate an acknowledgement and contact to bring some finality to these unresolved feelings.