Court allows native adoption

Sat, July 24, 2004

TWO HALF-NATIVE sisters who have been the subject of a bitter custody battle between the Squamish Nation and the white foster families raising them will now be allowed to remain with the only parents they have ever known. Ontario Superior Court Justice George Czutrin made a summary judgment in Hamilton yesterday, ordering the adoptions by the foster parents to go ahead immediately.

"Can you believe it? It's such a good day," said the ecstatic foster mom of the 4-year-old girl the Toronto Sun has called "Tammy."

"Who would have thought?" added her elated husband. "We thought we would be going through this 'til Christmas."

Earlier this week, the Squamish Nation abruptly abandoned its fight to move the 3- and 4-year-old girls from southern Ontario to outside the North Vancouver Squamish reserve, where they could grow up connected to their birth mother's First Nations heritage. The band dropped the plan when their proposed caregiver, a 53-year-old white woman with ties to the reserve, moved away.

"It is time to move from the courtroom distractions to focus on the children," said Justice George Czutrin of the Ontario Superior Court, ordering the adoption finalized within 31 days. "I hope the children thrive."

The sisters, born to a Squamish mother and a white father, were seized by the Hamilton Children's Aid Society almost four years ago because their birth parents were drug addicts. Placed with two different foster families, the girls did so well that the CAS encouraged both families in 2002 to make plans for adopting them.

Just a few months later, the Hamilton CAS suddenly changed its mind when the Squamish Nation expressed opposition to the adoption -- the first interest it had shown in the girls since they had been taken from their mother in Dec. 2000.

The band, with the support of the Hamilton CAS, has waged a two-year battle to seize the sisters, with native leaders such as Phil Fontaine, leader of the Assembly of First Nations, calling such non-native adoptions "cultural genocide."

In rendering his decision, Justice Czutrin also chastised the CAS demonstrating "a significant unfairness as it relates to these foster parents."

Outside the courtroom, CAS spokeswoman Ingrid Hauth had no response to the judge's comments, saying only the society will not appeal.