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CHILD PROTECTION - Practice and procedure - Parties

Thursday, April 26, 2018 @ 8:36 AM  

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Appeal by the grandmother from an order of a Chambers judge designating the foster parents as being persons of sufficient interest in a three-year-old child. The order was made in the context of an impending hearing to have the child declared to be in need of protection. The child was of Indigenous ancestry, but the foster parents were not. The child had been residing with the foster parents since she was 11 months old. They filed extensive affidavits demonstrating their suitability and their efforts to ensure the continued involvement of the child’s extended family and her teaching in culturally appropriate ways. The appellant, who had earlier been similarly designated as being a person of sufficient interest, had opposed the application on the basis that conferring sufficient interest status on foster parents was antithetical to the purpose of The Child and Family Services Act (Act), declared in s. 3 of the Act as being "to promote the well-being of children in need of protection by offering, wherever appropriate, services that are designed to maintain, support and preserve the family in the least disruptive manner". Concerns were expressed about the role of foster parents, as agents of the state, aligning themselves against a family member in what could result in an imbalance of power diminishing, rather than enhancing, reunification of the family. The grandmother argued that if the designation of foster parents as persons of sufficient interest was opposed, a Chambers judge should direct that the matter be determined at trial as part of the protection hearing.

HELD: Appeal dismissed. While the designation of someone as being a person of sufficient interest under s. 23(1)(c) of the Act could confer something more than party status only, there was no basis to conclude that the Legislature intended for all such applications to be made to the trial judge. Section 23(1)(c) employed classic language signalling that such applications could be made to a Chambers judge. The Chambers judge did not fail to act judicially and his decision was not clearly wrong. The Chambers judge was clearly aware of the burden on the foster parents to demonstrate that they were persons of sufficient interest.

S.C. (Re), [2018] S.J. No. 120, Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, G.R. Jackson, P.A. Whitmore and L.M. Schwann JJ.A., March 15, 2018. Digest No. TLD-April232018007