Algonquin sisters to stay with non-Aboriginal foster family: Ontario Court of Appeal

They’ve been with their foster family for almost all of that time and the court found removing them may cause undue harm.

Kenneth Jackson
APTN National News
An Algonquin grandmother learned Tuesday she won’t be getting custody back of her two granddaughters after the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled the children should stay with their non-Aboriginal foster family where they are “thriving.”

The grandmother was supported by the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan to have the children, under 10 years old, returned to her care after the Children’s Aid Society removed them about five years ago on July 24, 2009 in the  Ottawa, Ont. area.

They’ve been with their foster family for almost all of that time and the court found removing them may cause undue harm.

“The children are doing well in school and are happy and comfortable with the (foster family). By all accounts, they are thriving,” the appeal court said its ruling.

It’s illegal for APTN National News to name the children under care of CAS, or their grandmother.

The CAS removed the kids from their grandmother because she allowed unsupervised visits with their mother, who they say was an alcoholic. They also determined the grandmother wasn’t capable to care for the kids because she was overwhelmed over a failed relationship at the time.

When “protection workers” apprehended the children one sister was found alone in a home with her mother.

“The residence was in a state of disarray. There were soiled dishes on the counters and dirty clothes throughout. It was cluttered and chaotic,” the court said.

The little girl was sitting on bare mattress, alone in the dark, with her knees pulled up to her chest.

She was rocking back and forth crying.

Her mother, who wasn’t allowed unsupervised visits, was the only person there.

A three-month custodial apprehension was put in place to allow for the grandmother to “stabilize her life” that went uncontested.

Multiple times CAS approached Algonquins of Pikwakanagan to find a suitable First Nations home, but none could be found.

The sisters were placed with their current foster family in March 2010.

A first custody trial kept the children with the foster parents.

In 2012, the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan found a suitable home for the girls.

A second trial was ordered.

Between the first and second trial the grandmother was assaulted twice and her house seriously damaged by fire. When first responders arrived she admitted she’d been “heavily drinking.”

After the second trial, that also kept the children with the foster parents, the grandmother was allowed visits.

She’s been sober since February and promised the court the sister’s mother wouldn’t be allowed unsupervised visits; after all she is in jail according to the ruling.

Experts testified at the second trial that the sisters identify their foster family as their parents.

Chief Kirby Whiteduck testified then too.

Whiteduck said removing Aboriginal children from their “communities leads to alcoholism, violence, suicide, anger and resentment.”

The court heard the foster family has made efforts to show the girls their Aboriginal culture.

The grandmother and band believed the trial judge was in error by not taking into account the girl’s Aboriginal culture, but the appeal court disagreed.

“He was aware of the need to consider the least disruptive placement having regard to these considerations,” the ruling states. “That the children are thriving confirms the wisdom of the trial judge’s decision.”

The grandmother is still allowed visits and the foster family is not looking to adopt the children.

“The children are doing well with the (foster family) and want to continue a relationship with their grandmother.  The CAS is currently facilitating access and should continue to do so. Adoption is not contemplated, so access is always subject to status review,” the ruling states.

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