This case is about how courts think about the best interests of the child in family law cases, including the importance of cultural continuity for Indigenous children and the impact of family violence.
LEAF was denied leave to intervene before the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal.
The parents in this case, an Indigenous mother and a non-Indigenous father, separated and agreed to joint decision-making and shared custody of their child. The mother later fled to the United States with the child, stating that the father had been abusive. The mother was charged criminally, and her parenting time was suspended. Later orders from family court judges allowed the mother to have very limited supervised access to the child, and gave the father sole decision-making authority.
LEAF’s arguments emphasized that the only thing courts should consider in relation to parenting time and decision-making is the best interests of the child. This analysis needs to respect a child’s Indigenous identity, culture, and community. It must also meaningfully address family violence, including coercive control, within the wider context of the ongoing systemic inequality of women, particularly Indigenous women.
LEAF was unfortunately denied leave to intervene in this case.
Kimberly Stonechild (Lavoie Stonechild Law Office) and Joanna Radbord (McCarthy Hansen & Company LLP) represented LEAF. LEAF is grateful to the members of the case committee that helped shape the intervention: Grace Ajele, Gillian Bourke, Frances Chapman, Hadley Friedland, Koren Lightning-Earle, and Maggie Wente.