Indigenous mother to get child back after she was taken away by province

Swing set sits empty on Huu-ay-aht First Nation near Bamfield, British Columbia.
Swing set sits empty on Huu-ay-aht First Nation near Bamfield, British Columbia. Global News

Nearly two months after giving birth, an Indigenous mother will be reunited with her child that was plucked away her by British Columbia’s child welfare system three days after she was born. The mother, who legally cannot be identified, will live with the child in Port Alberni.

The Huu-ay-aht First Nation received word that a B.C. Provincial Court Judge ruled the child must be returned to the mother by Saturday, March 17.

READ MORE: ‘He’s in survival mode’: Child forced to leave foster parents who’d raised him since birth

“This judgment provides strong recognition of the importance of the maternal/infant bond, and the obligation upon the Ministry to fully consider the supports that are available to keep mom and baby together rather than simply removing the infant from the mother,” said Maegen Giltrow, counsel for the mother and Huu-ay-aht.

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“This is an especially important recognition of the role of the Huu-ay-aht community in supporting one of its citizens as she moves into the role of new mother.”

READ MORE: How B.C.’s ill-equipped system spawned the longest child welfare fight in Canada’s history

The decision of social workers to remove the child from it’s mother drew quick criticism from the province’s Children’s Representative Bernard Richard. He said the case is extremely frustrating, adding it is complicated but that it shouldn’t be complicated to allow for breastfeeding and to provide necessary support for the mother to stay in her community.

“In fact, the community has really come out quite strongly in support of this mom. They’re providing resources to her, [and] they’re asking the court to be able to help her stay in close proximity to her baby,” said Richard.

The B.C. Government has promised new legislation that will provide First Nations with more flexibility to move children deemed at risk into the homes of family members or others in the community. Currently, social workers will move children at risk out of the community entirely.

“I think there are things we can change with the child welfare system,” said Minister of Children and Family Development Katrine Conroy. “The act prohibits us from talking to First Nations communities, we want to change that act so we can have communications.”

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“It’s not going to happen overnight. But we are putting things in place so we can change the policies.”

READ MORE: B.C. Green MLA wants changes to how child welfare system handles Indigenous cases

In this case, the Huu-ay-aht First Nation will offer ongoing supervision and support to both mother and child when needed. The mother will also participate in recommended programs and services.

The court has also ruled that the provincial Director of Child, Family and Community Services “must establish that she has been active and diligent in attempting to find other alternatives to removing a child before a final determination that there are no other less disruptive means of protecting the child”

Since the child was moved, nearly two months ago, the mother has been living in a motel in Courtenay to be closer to the child.