Our comments that follow are outlined as “guiding principles”. As such, they are mean as the underlying principles which may provide a foundation for further refinement of details in legislation and policy.
Guiding Principles for the Adoption of Aboriginal Children
All legislation and policy concerning decisions regarding the adoption of aboriginal children, as with any type of adoption, should be based on the principle of “best interests of the child”.
Consideration must be given to the definition of an aboriginal child. This definition is important if distinct criteria, processes, etc. are developed for the adoption of aboriginal children. The BCCLA is not prepared to propose a definition, but strongly recommends that authorities develop a workable and appropriate definition.
In determining what is in the best interests of the aboriginal child, the aboriginal heritage of the child should be a crucial factor. Standards must be developed that are particular to aboriginal culture in assessing the appropriateness of prospective aboriginal adoptive parents.
All factors being equal, preference may be given to prospective aboriginal adoptive parents in making an adoption determination. Even where prospective aboriginal parents do not meet traditional criteria, additional weight must be given to their aboriginal ancestry in making the adoption determination.
Notwithstanding the above statements, the BCCLA is opposed to an absolute legal or policy prohibition on the adoption of aboriginal children by non-aboriginal parents. There may indeed be circumstances in which the best interests of the aboriginal child are satisfied by permitting non-aboriginal parents to adopt aboriginal children. In assessing the appropriateness of prospective non-aboriginal adoptive parents, special consideration should be given to the concern such parents indicate regarding the aboriginal heritage of the child and their willingness to cultivate this heritage.
As a condition of non-aboriginal parents adopting aboriginal children, it may be appropriate that such parents be required to take cultural sensitivity training as well as counselling, and to actively seek ties between the child and the aboriginal community.
The BCCLA is opposed to the complete transfer of jurisdiction to regulate the adoption of aboriginal children to First Nation interests. However, the Association strongly supports an important and equal role for First Nations in the regulation of the adoption of aboriginal children.
With respect to the existing moratorium placed on adoption of aboriginal children by non-aboriginal parents (R.F. Cronin, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Social Services, Operational Directive No. 39-1992/93, December 22, 1993), the Association is strongly opposed to such a moratorium. It is our understanding that many children are being stranded by this moratorium in foster homes even where there are willing and qualified adoptive parents. The BCCLA strongly urges that this moratorium be lifted immediately and replaced by an interim policy based on the principles outlined above.