Aboriginal Legal Aid in BC

Your family's rights
The ministry and your kids

If a social worker from the Ministry of Children and Family Development or a delegated agency contacts you or visits your home, this means that they think your child might be at risk and are looking into it. This is part of the child protection process. (This is also called an investigation.) An investigation is very serious. It may result in the social worker taking your child from your home.

You, your family, and your community have rights. The law says ministry should respect your child's family ties and Aboriginal identity.

To find services that can help you, see Who can help.

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What is child protection?

BC law says that if the ministry gets a report about your child, the ministry (or a delegated agency) must look into it. If the ministry believes your child is at risk, they must:

This process is called child protection.

Child protection and Aboriginal families

BC law also says that:

  • Aboriginal cultural ties are very important to the well-being of Aboriginal children.
  • When the ministry makes plans for an Aboriginal child's care, the ministry should respect the child's family ties and Aboriginal identity.
  • The community should be involved whenever possible in the planning and delivery of services. This includes preventative and support services.
  • The child's cultural identity must be considered when determining their best interests.

Find out more


What you can do if the ministry investigates you for a child protection matter

Call Legal Aid

If a social worker from the ministry or a delegated agency contacts you or visits your home to ask you questions about your family, this means that they think your child might be at risk and are looking into it. You have the right to get legal advice. Call Legal Aid immediately to find out if you qualify for a free lawyer:

604-408-2172 (Greater Vancouver)
1-866-577-2525 (no charge outside Greater Vancouver)

Ask for a mediator

A mediator can help you work with the ministry. A mediator is a professional who's specially trained to:

  • not take sides,
  • help people reach an agreement, and
  • help people work out conflicts.

You can ask for a mediator as soon as the social worker has contacted you. You can also ask at any time during the child protection process.

Mediation is free for families who are involved with the ministry. Mediators can travel to remote communities.

Find out more



What you can do if the ministry takes your child from your home

If the ministry takes your child from your home, you can:

  • Get legal advice before the day of court. Call Legal Aid immediately to find out if you qualify for a free lawyer.
  • Ask for visits with your child
  • Work out a plan with your band or community that supports your child's family ties and Aboriginal identity
  • Ask the social worker to place your child with another Aboriginal family
  • Ask for a mediator
  • Ask for the Report to Court, which explains why your child was removed

Find out more


What the ministry must do if it takes your child from your home

If the ministry takes your child from your home, it must:

  • Notify your child's Aboriginal community representative (such as the First Nation band)
  • Take steps to protect your child's family ties and Aboriginal identity
  • consider your child's family ties and Aboriginal identity when choosing a foster home
  • In many cases, allow a representative from your child's band or Aboriginal community to go to court

Find out more


What your Aboriginal representative can do if the ministry takes your child from your home

If the ministry takes your child from your home, your Aboriginal representative can:

  • Receive all court documents
  • Speak at the child protection hearing
  • Call witnesses and question other witnesses
  • Take part in any mediation
  • Ask about ways to get you help

Find out more


Who can help?

Mediation

Ministry of Justice — Child Protection Mediation Program

Mediate BC — Has a list of child protection mediators in BC

Find an advocate

BC211 — Free confidential referrals to help and information — Call 211

PovNet — Information about poverty issues and links to organizations that can help

BC Association of Friendship Centres — Find a friendship centre in your area

Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation — See their A Guide to Aboriginal Organizations and Services in British Columbia for organizations that can help

Legal help

Legal information

Aboriginal community legal workers — Give legal information and limited advice services

Legal information outreach workers — Give legal information and provide referrals


Legal advocacy and advice

Access Pro Bono Law Clinics — Free legal help

Carole James, MLA, Community Office — Free legal clinic, including family matters — Call 250-412-7794

Family duty counsel — Free legal advice on family matters — Kwadacha and Tsay Key Dene — Call 1-877-601-6066 (no charge)

Family duty counsel — Free legal advice on child protection matters — Williams Lake, call 778-395-6200

First Nations and Métis Outreach Program (The Law Centre) — Free legal help, including family matters — Victoria

Native Courtworker and Counselling Society — Advocate on behalf of Aboriginal parents in family matters — Prince George and Terrace

Bella Coola Legal Advocacy Program — Legal advocacy on a issues, including child protection — Bella Coola

UBC Indigenous Community Legal Clinic — Free legal help on various legal matters — 604-684-7334 (Greater Vancouver) or 1-888-684-7334 (call no charge)

Upper Skeena Counselling & Legal Assistance Society — Help with family matters —Hazelton

Victoria Native Friendship Centre — Free legal clinic, including family matters — Call 250-412-7794