This is a complaint before the BC Human Rights Tribunal about discrimination in the child protection system.
R.R., an Indigenous mother, brought a complaint against Vancouver Aboriginal Child and Family Services Society (“VACFSS”) under the Human Rights Code for discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, ancestry, and mental disability.
In 2016, VACFSS apprehended R.R.’s four children and has continued to deny R.R. custody and restrict access to her children. The complaint concerns VACFSS’s decisions to deny and restrict access from April 2017 to December 2018, which R.R. says have been made based on prejudicial assumptions about her as an Indigenous mother and her ability to parent while living with a mental health disability. R.R. says VACFSS relied on stereotypes about intergenerational residential school trauma, rather than assessing her ability to parent on her own merits. The Tribunal will also consider whether VACFSS has failed to accommodate R.R.’s cultural and disability-related needs with appropriate support.
Indigenous children are taken into government care at devastatingly high rates, continuing colonial practices of apprehension. This complaint is an important examination of how the child welfare system interacts with Indigenous caregivers in the context of human rights.
West Coast LEAF’s Involvement
West Coast LEAF was granted intervenor status to assist the Tribunal’s understanding of the social context of this complaint. West Coast LEAF will argue R.R.’s complaint must be understood within the broader colonial context in which interactions between Indigenous mothers and the child welfare system occur.
The BC Human Rights Tribunal hearing started in person in February 2020 and continued via video-conference in September 2020. At the end of the hearing dates in September, R.R.’s counsel requested additional documents from VACFSSS. Once VACFSSS has met this disclosure request, the parties will make submissions on whether additional hearing days are required to address the information in the new documents.