Release: BC Supreme Court to review Human Rights Tribunal’s decision on discriminatory practice by child welfare agency

Vancouver, unceded Xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) homelands – Today, West Coast LEAF will be at the BC Supreme Court, intervening in the review of a human rights decision concerning discrimination in the context of the family policing (or child welfare) system. The outcome of this judicial review has the power to impact how families seek remedies for discriminatory practices by child welfare agencies.

Last November, the BC Human Rights Tribunal ruled that the Vancouver Aboriginal Child and Family Services Society (VACFSS), a delegated agency of the Ministry of Children and Family Development, discriminated against R.R., an Afro-Indigenous mother, while her children were in VACFSS’s care.

The Tribunal’s decision was grounded in the many reports documenting anti-Indigenous racism in BC’s family policing system and the inadequate provision of culturally appropriate and preventative services for Indigenous families and communities.

VACFSS is seeking review of the Tribunal’s landmark decision, the outcome of which will affect the extent to which parents and caregivers engaged in the family policing system may seek redress for alleged discrimination under the Human Rights Code. West Coast LEAF is advocating that the Court consider the historical and social context of the child welfare system, systemic discrimination, and international legal instruments such as UNDRIP in assessing the Tribunal’s ability to provide remedies for discrimination in this system.   

“This case asks the Court to decide the limitations on the human rights of parents engaged with the family policing system,” says Bety Tesfay, staff lawyer at West Coast LEAF.“We need to consider the equality and dignity implications of barring families from accessing human rights tribunals for discrimination experienced in the family policing system.”

“This is an area in which Indigenous families in particular have suffered widespread and egregious violations of their human rights and continue to face significant discrimination, with devastating consequences for children, families, and communities,” says Robin Gage, pro bono counsel with Emma Ronsley at Arvay Finlay LLP. “The decision will have wide-reaching impacts on the scope of human rights oversight in an area where robust human rights protections are desperately needed.”

Read more about the case here.


Media contact: Kait Woodman
interim manager of communications, West Coast LEAF