Is “reverse racism” keeping Filipino couple from adopting a Métis child?

By , on October 2, 2013

“It is reverse racism,” says Paul Walsh.

Paul Walsh is an attorney representing a Filipino-Canadian couple in Winnipeg who are in the middle of a dirty legal battle for the child they considered their own for the last two years.

The 2 ½ year old little boy is part Métis, one of the constitutionally recognized and protected Aboriginal peoples of Canada.

The custody fight began when Manitoba’s Métis Child and Family Services Authority (MCFSA) deemed the Fil-Can couple as “culturally” unfit to raise the child, even after the child has been with them for two years of his life and refers to the couple lovingly as “Mama” and “Papa.”

“And it is a tragedy for this little boy,” Walsh said.

“I suppose the Métis people would prefer to put a positive spin on it, but I don’t know how you can have positive racism,” he continued. “They will say it is cultural rather than racist, but we all know what the facts are and the facts are this: I have two Filipino clients that are ideal parents that can’t adopt a child of Métis background — no matter how long that child has been in their care, because they are not culturally appropriate.”

The couple and MCFSA gave their arguments with an independent arbitrator and a decision is expected by September 27th.

The legal battle-slash-mess has been gaining spectators and raising questions about adoption not just in Canada but all over the world.

Is cultural heritage really important? How did the kid end up living with the couple for so long before family services decided they were actually not the right people to raise the little boy? Is this an issue of parenting abilities or (reverse) racism?

According to MCFSA chief executive officer Billie Schibler, the agency’s aim is to match a Métis child with a foster family who identifies themselves as Métis as well.

“We refer to it as ’60s Scoop,’” Ms. Schibler tells Jon O’Connor of the National Post.

“Thousands of children were taken away from their culture and their communities, and a lot of communities are still suffering the effects of that,” she explained.

From 1960s to the 1980s, thousands of Métis children were taken from their foster families and brought to other places, even as far as the United States, only to be raised by non- Métis parents and family members.

“Our children are the spirit of our communities. If you don’t have that spirit, if you don’t have children in your life, you lose all purpose in life,” Schibler noted.

Though this may be the sad history that gave birth to the MCFSA, some people can’t help but disagree with their mandate. Some people like the little boy’s biological mother.

“Right now the people he’s (little boy) with, he sees them as his parents. To him, it doesn’t matter what color or race they are… Why should it matter to anyone else?” she asked.

“I’d be really sad if people could just open the door and say goodbye to a child that they have cared for without there being some feeling of loss,

“But, again, I don’t think it has to be the end for them. If everybody is doing this right, the [MCFSA] will see that these [Fil-Can couple] are people who need to be involved in the adoptive child’s life… It doesn’t matter what your culture is,” the mother explained.

On the other hand, the MCFSA disagrees. To them, culture matters and it matters a lot. Schibler also insists that the parents know what they were getting themselves into two years ago–that nothing’s final until the court of law agrees.

Whether it matters or not, an innocent kids life is at stake, and perhaps there are just some things that are beyond the court of law or a government-recognized agency to declare.

With report from Joe O’Connor, National Post