After a two year fight with Nisga’a Child and Family Services (NCFS), a 64 year old grandfather in Terrace, British Columbia has been given access to his grandchildren.
“I am grateful for that after not seeing them for all this time,” said Lorne.
His last name is being withheld to protect the identity of his grandchildren.
“It is a light at the end of the tunnel by no ways is it the end but at least it is the beginning hopefully we can work things out in a good way.”
Both of Lorne’s grandkids, whom he helped raise, are under the age of 10.
“We had Christmas holidays, their birthdays, the oldest one… when there were graduation ceremonies we attended all of them. My wife and I were a big part of their life,” Lorne said.
They grew at Lorne’s with their parents, until a domestic situation landed Lorne Jr. in jail.
The mother took the sons and moved in with relatives on her side of the family, but shortly after, she lost custody of her son’s due to poor mental health.
Everyone involved are members of Nisga’a Nation.
When the mother lost custody, Nisga’a CFS left the children with the mother’s relatives where the boys were already staying.
Their role since has been to facilitate supervised visitation between their father, who was recently released from jail for the assault on their mother.
Their grandfather says visitation is sporadic and at the whim of the relatives and feels Nisga’a CFS should have a children’s advocacy component to help nation families with custody and access matters.
While grandparents in many provinces including B.C have rights to see their grandchildren, they have to go through the provincial court system and have a judge grant that access.
Lorne says nations – not provinicial courts – should be handling those matters.
But since the First Nation CFS division had helped transport and supervise visitation between Lorne’s family and the boys, Lorne had pushed for NCFS to intervene – when he said the grandson’s guardians cut off contact with Lorne’s family.
“My heart feels like it’s tearing apart. It’s had a big toll, my wife soon as she hears their voice she’ll break down and cry,” he said and noted that he’s worried about his grandson’s wellbeing. “I would honestly like to see the NCFS investigated to see whether the rights of the children are adhered to.
“I’d like to ask if they ever offered a children’s advocate, I don’t believe they have.”
APTN News requested an interview with Nisga’a Nation about the situation but were declined via email citing “privacy concerns.”
Lorne said he’d held seeking legal action in court because he believed his band was a better fit to advocate in a good way for Indigenous kinship and matters involving child custody and visitation.
But after numerous meetings with NCFS that resulted in no additional visitation, he is willing to seek legal action in hopes of seeing his grandkids more regularly.
“Within the ministry and in NCFS, it either has to be revamped, scraped or find an alternative situation to deal with people. Also the guidelines given to them they have to follow whether it be B.C. or Canada,” Lorne said.
When APTN interviewed Lorne on Dec. 15, he was three weeks into a hunger strike in an effort to bring attention to his plight of connecting with his grandkids.
He had gone six weeks with zero contact with them for what he believed was punishment for a comment he’d made in a meeting with NCFS a month prior.
“My comments at that meeting were as follow ‘If I lived in the dark world I use to live in I might have did something to bring this case to attention. What I meant by that is what I am doing now is a hunger strike,’” Lorne said.
He told APTN that Terrace RCMP phoned him three weeks following the meeting and informing him of an investigation stemming from allegations he had made threats during that Nov. 10, meeting with NCFS.
However, Lorne was never charged and still has a clean criminal record with no allegations against him for abuse or neglect.
On Dec. 16, APTN’s InFocus aired Lorne’s story, that same day Nisga’a stepped in and arranged a visitation between the boys and their grandfather, ending Lorne’s hunger strike.