Release: BC Human Rights Tribunal rules family policing system discriminated against Indigenous mother

November 23, 2022—For Immediate Release

Vancouver, unceded Xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) homelands – The BC Human Rights Tribunal ruled yesterday that the Vancouver Aboriginal Child and Family Services Society (VACFSS), a delegated agency of the Ministry of Children and Family Development, discriminated against an Afro-Indigenous mother, R.R., while R.R.’s children were in VACFSS’s care.

This decision echoes decades of reports about anti-Indigenous racism in BC’s family policing system (i.e., BC’s colonial child welfare system) and the inadequate provision of culturally appropriate and preventative child welfare services for Indigenous families and communities.

“This is a landmark human rights decision because it draws a clear line between R.R.’s individual experiences of discrimination and the systemic realities that have resulted in the vast overrepresentation of Indigenous families in the family policing system,” says Kate Feeney, Director of Litigation at West Coast LEAF.

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.

West Coast LEAF intervened in this human rights complaint to assist the Tribunal in understanding the historical and current context of Indigenous families in BC’s family policing system. Today, Indigenous children make up approximately two-thirds of children in care in BC, despite representing less than 10% of BC’s child population.[1] The Truth and Reconciliation Commission observed that Canada’s colonial child welfare system has “simply continued the assimilation that the residential school system started.”[2]

“This case illustrates the urgent need for BC to support the creation of new child and family well-being models, including those run by Indigenous Nations, that will allow all families in BC to stay together and thrive,” says Raji Mangat, Executive Director at West Coast LEAF. “With strength and advocacy, R.R. navigated a colonial and often challenging human rights process to achieve justice for her family and support systemic change.”

Read West Coast LEAF’s written submission to the Tribunal.

Read the BC Human Rights Tribunal’s decision. 


Media Contact:

Raji Mangat
Executive Director, West Coast LEAF

[1] RR v Vancouver Aboriginal Child and Family Services Society (No. 6), 2022 BCHRT 116, at p. 15

[2] Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future: Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (2015) at p. 138.