We’ve previously blogged about a Jamaican mother who had been seeking to stop the adoption of her son by a family in British Columbia.
Recently, following a 4-day hearing, a B.C. Provincial Court judge ruled against the woman, granting custody of the child to the B.C. Ministry of Child and Family Development (the Ministry)
A Brief History
In 2012 the boy (who was then four and is now ten) moved to B.C. to live with his father and stepmother. He had previously been living with his mother in Jamaica. Less than 12 months later, social workers apprehended the boy after he allegedly suffered abuse by his stepmother. He was placed into foster care, and in 2014, the Ministry applied for custody. A trial was scheduled for the spring and summer of 2015.
The mother had been aware of the trial but had indicated that she was unable to attend and had asked the Ministry to return the child to the custody of his father.
However, despite having her contact information (including her address, email, and several phone numbers), the Ministry did not provide her with any documents related to the case, documents that she was entitled to receive. The trial ran in her absence, and the Ministry was awarded custody.
In 2017, with assistance from the Jamaican government, the mother applied to dismiss the custody order and requested that her child be returned to her.
The Second Custody Trial
The trial was held in early 2018 to determine the custody issue. The mother travelled to B.C. to participate.
During that trial, the court heard allegations of physical abuse that the boy had suffered in Jamaica. The court also heard that he had allegedly told social workers and his foster mother that he wanted to remain in Canada.
The court noted that the boy:
…is adamant that he does not want to return to his mother in Jamaica…[h]e has not wavered in his deeply held conviction that he wants to stay with [his foster mother]. When he was told that his mother was seeking a court order to return him, he was inconsolable and angry.
The mother argued that social workers had not investigated the allegations of abuse in Jamaica, and noted that it would be “natural” for the boy to ask to stay with his foster mother because he had not seen his biological mother for more than four years (other than through Skype). The mother also highlighted the challenges she faced in establishing that she could provide a home for him in Jamaica that was as suitable as the one he had in Canada, noting:
No mother from a disadvantaged nation could ever hope to discharge that burden.
The Decision: Best Interests of the Child
The Provincial Court ruled against the mother’s application, citing:
- the length of time that had passed since the initial custody order was made;
- the fact that the mother had not attended the initial custody hearing; and
- the best interests of the child.
The Court further noted that there are provisions in place for the child to continue to have Skype calls with the mother, and for her to travel to visit him in person. The boy’s current foster mother has applied to adopt him. The mother is considering an appeal.
We will continue to follow developments in this case and will provide updates if further information becomes available.
In the meantime, if you have questions about how you can protect your custody and access rights, contact Gelman & Associates. Our goal is to provide our clients with the information and resources they need make informed decisions about their rights and the best interests of their children.
In addition to a comprehensive family law kit that all clients are given during their initial consultation, we also offer live webinars on divorce in Ontario and quarterly “Ask the Lawyer” live webinars. To help you maintain positive mental health during a difficult period, we also offer our clients a free consultation with a psychological professional.
We are conveniently located in six locations throughout Ontario, and are easily accessible by transit and off-highway. Our phone lines are open Monday to Friday from 8 AM to 8 PM. Call us at (416) 736-0200 or 1-844-736-0200 or contact us online for an initial consultation.