BC Métis Federation applauds the letter from well known Métis activist, and former Ontario leader Tony Belcourt, which speaks to the volumes of people fighting to keep SS with our community in BC in accordance with our Métis customs and traditions.
This letter raises the significant flaws of other Métis organizations and speaks to the heart of the issue; that is keeping Métis children with our families as we have done historically.
Tony Belcourt’s Letter:
Stop the Deportation of Baby S
The British Columbia’s Director of Child Welfare is determined to remove a 3-year-old Métis child from the only mother she knows to a non-Indigenous family in Ontario. She intends to put the child on a plane this Thursday, September 29th. This action must be stopped.
Baby S was put in the care of a Métis family two days after birth. Two years ago a custom adoption took place with the participation and consent of the birth mother. If the natural family that consents and dearly wishes for the adoption then that joint agreement is sufficient for a court to declare the legal effect of the custom adoption. Regrettably the court did not make the declaration sought and its decision is now pending appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Article 7 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states:
1. Indigenous individuals have the rights to life, physical and mental integrity, liberty and security of person.
2. Indigenous peoples have the collective right to live in freedom, peace and security as distinct peoples and shall not be subjected to any act of genocide or any other act of violence, including forcibly removing children of the group to another group.
The BC Director of Child Welfare is ignoring the rights of the child, her birth mother and her adopted mother. Recently she unfortunately obtained the agreement of the Metis Nation of Ontario (MNO) and the Metis Nation BC (MNBC) to a “cultural plan” that includes, in part, taking the child to the annual Louis Riel Day Ceremony and reading her two books about the Metis sash. How could that ever replace hearing the smoky sounds of a Métis mother telling her stories? How can that ever replace the sound of the Métis fiddle played in our homes live or on CD. How can that ever replace the sight and sound of the soft tapping of moccasins dancing to the Red River Jig? How can that replace an upbringing surrounded by Métis family members and others in her community?
However well meaning the MNO and the MNBC have been it is wrong to remove an Indigenous child from its family and its community. I believe they have unwittingly become pawns in hands of the Director of Child Welfare and should immediately rescind their support of the “cultural plan agreement”. Taking a child away by the state is a process that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission labeled as “cultural genocide”.
The BC Director of Child Welfare wants to place Baby S in the home of two siblings who were adopted and removed to the non-Indigenous home in Ontario. She intended that that family adopt Baby S. However she has had to change what she said she is doing in light of the fact that BC legislation prohibits the adoption of children by families outside of British Columbia. The Director now says she is being placed there in “foster care”? What? She was already in foster care in BC – in the home of a Métis family. Why put her in foster care in a non-Indigenous home 4300 kilometers away when she was perfectly in good care in her home community very near to her birth mother?
Ripping Baby S from that home has been heartbreaking. She was taken away about a week ago and put into the custody of Child Welfare. Doesn’t this sound all too familiar? Has nothing been learned from the devastation caused by the Indian Residential School, the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and as people are now learning about the 60’s Scoop?
It is a Métis right of self-determination that we take care of our own – an Aboriginal right that is recognized and protected by Canada’s Constitution. It is our custom and tradition.
The BC Representative for Children and Youth, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond has requested a 30-day delay in any further action pending input from three notable Métis authorities on Métis customs and traditions. Unless the BC Attorney General and Minister of Justice steps in to cause this delay, I fear that Baby S will be taken away, never to be returned to her roots during her childhood. This would be a devastating travesty of Justice.
Help us stop the deportation of Baby S.
Dr. Tony Belcourt, O.C., LL.D. (Hon.)
Former President, Metis Nation of Ontario
Former Metis Nation Ambassador for International Relations