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.
On November 22, 2022, the BC Human Rights Tribunal ruled that VACFSS discriminated against R.R., while R.R.’s children were in VACFSS’s care. The Tribunal found that VACFSS discriminated against R.R. in two ways. First, prejudice and stereotypes about R.R. informed VACFSS’s decisions to retain custody of and restrict R.R.’s access to her children. Second, VACFSS did not adequately support R.R. or meet her specific needs as an Indigenous mother who was dealing with the impacts of trauma.
Application for Leave to Intervene – BC Human Rights Tribunal
Written Submissions – BC Human Rights Tribunal
Release: BC Human Rights Tribunal rules family policing system discriminated against Indigenous mother
February 2020 news alert: We’ll be at the BC Human Rights Tribunal to highlight impacts of discrimination in the child welfare system