The child had spent the first year of his life with his mother, an Aboriginal. When the boy was 1, his mother took off with him searching for her biological father and found him in Vancouver. After some issues, Children's Aid apprehended the boy and placed him with his biological grandfather, an Aboriginal. The adoptive parents of the mother (a white couple living in Connecticut) contested custody, while the mother supported the grandfather's application.
The trial judge granted the custody application, but this was overturned by the Court of Appeal.
- To what degree should race and culture be considered in a custody application?
Appeal allowed; decision of trial judge restored.
No written reasons were given by the Supreme Court, simply an oral judgment restoring the order of the trial judge. This outcome is inconsistent with previous case law, awarding custody to the adoptive grandparents despite psychological bonding with the biological grandfather (who he had spent three of his four years with) and the shared culture.
The trial court had considered:
- the child has both Aboriginal and Afro-American heritage;
- the Connecticut couple might be better suited to reconnect child with Afro-American heritage.
- the wishes of the mother;
- the current residence of the child with the grandfather; and
- the best parenting and family environment (mainly material values).
- the grandfather's means were not as good as the Connecticut couple.
On balance, it appears the court gave the child to the adoptive grandparents as they could offer a more stable upbringing and more economic advantages.
Race and culture are merely one consideration when determining the best interests of the child.