FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 24, 2023
xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil Waututh) / Vancouver, BC – The Vancouver Aboriginal Child and Family Services Society (VACFSS) has filed a petition with the Supreme Court of British Columbia to appeal a recent BC Human Rights Tribunal (BC HRT) decision, R.R. v. VACFSS, issued on November 22, 2022.
“It is essential to request a judicial review because the BC HRT overstepped its jurisdiction in this decision,” said Linda Stiller, Chair of the VACFSS Board. “VACFSS regrets having to file a judicial appeal on this case, particularly as an Indigenous-led agency committed to restorative practice and the advancement of provisions in the Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families”.
“We understand that this step is very difficult, but it is necessary to ensure Indigenous children are protected as intended by the legislation and our decision in no way reflects on the individual who filed the HRT complaint,” said Stiller. “While we recognize the pain the complainant identified during the hearing, our duty is to ensure that children’s rights are also protected”.
The legal grounds for VACFSS’ application for judicial review include the following:
- The Member made decisions on child protection matters under the Child, Family and Community Services Act (CFSCA), which are in the exclusive jurisdiction of the British Columbia Provincial Court, and therefore beyond the jurisdiction of the HRT.
- The Member failed to give effect to the court orders, including consent orders, between the parties and by doing so, the HRT undermined a final order of BC Provincial Court under the CFCSA, including on issues of custody and access.
- The HRT Decision is premised on the Member’s criticisms of and assessment of perceived flaws in the CFCSA legislation as a whole, but the HRT does not have jurisdiction to impugn valid legislation. The complaint in issue was not a Charter challenge or a class complaint involving allegations of systemic discrimination, and no notice was given of any challenge to the validity of the CFCSA. The Member used an incorrect avenue for challenging the validity of the CFCSA legislation, which can only be done, with proper notice, through the Supreme Court of British Columbia.
- The Member denied VACFSS the right to a fair hearing by expanding the scope of the case before it without providing proper notice. This prevented VACFSS from being able to understand the allegations it had to respond to, and from being able to provide the full evidence and argument in relation to all of issues addressed in the HRT Decision.
Given the significant legal issues raised by VACFSS in the judicial review, the organization has also asked that the amount of the financial award be reconsidered by the court.
“The agreement between VACFSS and the Director of CFCSA supports VACFSS’ ability to design and deliver services that recognize the unique challenges experienced by Indigenous families. VACFSS upholds the rights of Indigenous children and families to receive trauma-informed, therapeutic services and addresses child safety through parental consent orders, voluntary care agreements and ensures that whenever children need to be in care that parents are granted supported access to their children. Through collaboration, we engage parents in safety plans to prevent removal and identify options for family to care for the child,” says Bernadette Spence, VACFSS Chief Executive Officer.
VACFSS will not have further public comment about this petition, respecting the privacy of all involved in a difficult process.
Statement issued by:
Bernadette Spence Linda Stiller
Chief Executive Officer Chair, Board of Directors