Friday, 2 August 2013

Traditional Aboriginal Customary Adoption: A Collective and Individual Human Right

Perhaps one of the most ignored Indigenous and Human Rights issue facing Aboriginal communities and individuals is the lack of recognition for something we as Indigenous peoples have always practised and that has served our communities well in protecting our children; Traditional Customary Adoption. There are researchers like the Canada Research Chair Dr Ghislain Otis who is attempting to address this issue. Dr Otis (University of Ottawa) has written a new book L’adopition coutumiere autochtone et les defis du pluralism juridique about Aboriginal Customary Adoption within a pluralistic legal framework within Canada and more specifically Quebec. In the interview that I conducted with Dr Ghislain Otis (see below) there are two basic reasons why Dr Otis decided to edit and author this book:
1)                 There is a fundamental trend in international legal research concerning the need for better recognition of Indigenous legal traditions around the world and in Canada. There has been an increase in demands of Indigenous peoples for this recognition as we can see with the international protest movements like Idle No More. There also seems to be a general agreement by many that we must challenge these old colonial systems currently used by many nation-states.
2)                 Indigenous peoples had their own legal system that were sophisticated and well adapted to their own needs and circumstances. These systems have survived despite the attempts to eradicate them or the continued indifference by nation states. This indifference has manifested itself by the non-recognition by nation states that these Indigenous legal systems do exist. Nation states like Canada have responsibilities for Indigenous peoples and to protect their Human Rights. These responsibilities must be acknowledged and supported by state apparatus; and if you acknowledge these systems you must be have a better understanding and research this area of prime importance. Dr Otis asks “How can you have these systems work together?”

Customary adoption is an ancient form of adoption that has evolved and changed over time. It is a practice by which biological parents give their children to another set of adoptive parents. There is a wide variety between Indigenous legal systems in the matter of customary adoption. Some will create a complete break between the parents and child; other systems will maintain some form of relationship between parents and child. There are many variations between. According to the research of Dr Otis these are legal systems that create rights and obligations for Indigenous peoples and all Canadians.

Currently only the Northern territories have statues which recognize Indigenous customary adoption and only one province. British Columbia’s law though is ambivalent, because it leaves it to judges to decide if customary adoption meets the definition of what Aboriginal customary adoption is. This is a problem because this interferes with Indigenous law and legal systems making customary adoption the same as western adoption. This leads to the assimilation of the traditional forms of adoption and the Indigenous legal system into the Canadian state adoptive apparatus.

The Province of Quebec is presently debating customary adoption in the Quebec National Assembly. They have had a heated debate about customary adoption for the past 5 years. Currently there is a wide consensus towards the recognition of customary adoption. A working group was created with representatives from political parties, the government and First Nations. On April 16, 2012 they produced a report entitled Report of the Working Group on Customary Adoption in Aboriginal communities. A Bill has also been tabled that would recognize customary adoption in the civil code. This is a major change in constitutional law because it would not only recognize the two current forms of legal systems like common law and civil law, but it lays the beginning in Canada of recognition for Indigenous law as a separate but integrated legal system.

There is a great need for customary adoption within Aboriginal communities because children have multiple issues related to lack of parental right for the adoptive parents. There are issues related to this both individually and collectively. Individually because a child’s fundamental rights are not being protected; what is in the best interest of the child to stable and loving relationships. Should the child exist moved about between foster families and used as a pawn between two different legal systems? These customary adoptions are simply not easily recognized by the western legal system even thought they are still practised very frequently by many Indigenous peoples in Canada. The Inuit in northern Quebec are a prime example of Indigenous peoples who still practice customary adoption. Other issues which affect the individual are the possibilities where the biological parents may return and demand before a court and judge the return of a child or children. Because this Indigenous legal system is not recognized, the judge could return the child. When adoptive parents try using the Canadian state to obtain services to which they are entitled for their child, they often experience grave administrative difficulties. Other practical issues include trying to sign the child up for school; questions about legal authority; questions about child allowances which cannot be paid to the adoptive parents; situations of if the child dies or the adoptive parents dies who receives death benefits and inheritance. Since the parental connection is not legally established the rights of the child and parent are ignored and go unprotected. Collectively the non-recognition forces this form of traditional practice onto the margins and oppresses its continuation because it becomes too difficult to practice. Essentially the practice becomes extinct and dies out.

There are a number of positive points to the proposed law in Quebec because it allows Aboriginal communities to create their own formal system about how to regulate customary adoption. The decisions are left with the Indigenous community and their authority. The law will not define the affects of an adoption, but will require the Authority to define the affects like alimonies or support. It makes it easier to obtain approval and reduces many of the legal costs associated with lawyers and courts that are often incurred when navigating between both systems.

The less attractive element is that provincial child welfare agencies are mandated to be involved. The child welfare agency must approve these adoptions when a child has been involved with the Child and Family Services system. This allows a government agency to interfere with the Indigenous legal systems. They might interfere even though they have little understanding of this system. Dr Otis has a concern that even though it might be in the best interest and welfare of the child some children may be prevented from being adopted.  

Dr Otis also discussed the constitutional effect customary adoption may have. Because Indigenous legal questions are a federal responsibility then technically provinces would have little ability to extensively regulate customary adoption apart from minor recognition and procedures. It could force province to recognize aboriginal rights and would constrain provinces on how far they may regulate traditional Aboriginal practices.



Ouellette, Robert-Falcon. (Director) (2013. July 18). At the Edge of Canada: Indigenous Research. Traditional Aboriginal Customary Adoption: A Collective and Individual Human Right with Dr Ghislan Otis [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from  
Ouellette, Robert-Falcon, dir. "Traditional Aboriginal Customary Adoption: A Collective and Individual Human Right with Dr Ghislan Otis." At the Edge of Canada: Indigenous Research.. N.p., 18 July 2013. web. July 18, 2013. < ›


  1. It was certainly news to me to learn that for a long period of time, over 40 years in fact, Indigenous peoples have practised their own particular customs regarding child adoption. This custom has been legally recognized in Canada which means that Canada has protected the rights that are specific to Indigenous peoples. One of these rights includes the right for them to practise and maintain 'cultural integrity'. This means Indigenous nations can freely practise their culture and customs such as language and religion. It is no wonder then, that they feel that Canada is suddenly slamming the door in their face, so to speak, regarding their customary adoption rights which they feel are currently not being properly, meaning legally, acknowledged. I believe that the ultimate concern relating to child adoption should be the overall mental, physical and emotional wellbeing of the child being adopted. However there seems to be a bitter tug of war that exists between two different adoptions systems which is jeopardizing the future of the child and the adoptive parents in question: the Aboriginal customary adoption process and the statutory adoption process that is legally recognized and enforced in Canada. Canada's reluctance to legally recognize the Aboriginal customary adoption is being frowned upon by the Indigenous peoples as a serious violation to their human rights. I can identify with this point of view, but I am made to wonder why Canada has turned a blind eye to this matter.
    Taking a closer look at the premise of customary adoption among Aboriginal peoples, I clearly see the value in their pursuit of maintaing this custom. Their adoption process involves a private arrangement between two families within an Aboriginal community. This process is considered “open”, meaning that there are many people that are involved such as the birth parents, extended family, the Aboriginal community and those that have important relationships to the child that is being adopted. The goal is for the child to be raised in an Aboriginal community where they will have the opportunity to maintain a cultural identity. However, the past has shown that the best interests of the child has been put into question.

  2. There have been complaints about Aboriginal customary adoption in terms of the home studies and other professional evaluations of the qualifications of the adoptive family. Also, a great worry for those who see this custom becoming further acknowledged is the cruel reality of children being used for slave labour. In other words, what is the quality of the legal controls on customary adoption? Is Canada striving to have this customary adoption process die out because it has had a record of being more detrimental than beneficial for the children involved? Perhaps in Canada's efforts to protect the rights of the Aboriginal parents wanting their adoption customs legally recognized, the human rights of the child have been violated. And seeing as how the ultimate concern is the safety and wellbeing of the child, the Canadian government feels that it should do everything in their power to help discontinue this customary adoption process.
    I personally feel that the Aboriginal customs regarding adoption should be legally recognized by the Canadian government in so far as the child in question is genuinely being taken care of. One advantage to having their adoption process legally recognized is that provincial child welfare agencies have a mandatory involvement in the adoption process in that they must give their approval when the child in question is involved with Child and Family Services. If Canada is trying to say something to the Indigenous peoples wanting to keep this custom alive, I feel it is the following, “I respect you all and give you entitlement to your desire to practise and maintain your cultural identity. I want to protect your human rights, but that would involve EVERYONE'S human rights. I will only let you take this adoption process into your own hands if you can come to some sort of agreement with me in regulating quality controls on the experience of the child. Children have not always benefited from your customary adoption process and so I am doing what I can to protect them. If I feel motivated to approve your adoption process, I will entitle you to the same child and adoptive parental rights involved in a statutory adoption process.” There are rights that the children have and the adoptive parents have that are currently being ignored by the Canadian government, and I feel that this is a matter that will take time to settle. However, my final thought is that the Indigenous peoples should have this right of theirs protected if they can prove that they are capable in meeting the needs of the child.

  3. I am in complete agreement that Customary Adoption is, not only a human right, but a necessary step in order to both improve the system of ensuring children are taken care of and relieving that system of immense overload.
    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Sec. 25 (1) states, “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.” I think that this statement is enough to justify that if any person, in bringing a child into this world, is not able to provide a standard of living adequate for the well-being of the child, that person has the right to allow someone else to provide those things for that child. This is often the case with all forms of adoption; the mother and father want what is best for the child and if they are not able to provide it, they offer it up for adoption. What better way to ensure that the child will be well taken care of, than to choose the adoptive parents yourself? states that there are more than 78,000 children across Canada that are in the care of child welfare agencies. Over 30,000 of those are waiting in foster homes and small institutions to be adopted. If I were to encounter circumstances that were “beyond [my] control”, I would want to know that I had the right to ask someone I knew to adopt my child. With that number of children waiting to be adopted or getting shuffled through the child welfare system, why wouldn’t the government want to allow another form of adoption with fewer associated costs and legal fees?
    Customary adoption just makes sense.

  4. I constantly hear stories of how social workers and others involved in the Canadian child and family’s services are over worked and underfunded. I feel that the practice of customary adoption in the aboriginal community should be legalized everywhere in Canada as the other option for these children is the foster care system. I also feel strongly that as long as the child is placed in a stable home, the practice of customary adoption is extremely beneficial. The child welfare system often moves the child from one home to another; disrupting daily routine, familial relationships as well as social relationships made through school. As with any other rights and practice, Canada has made a promise to start honoring the ways of life for the aboriginal community and this is a tradition that has taken place for many years. Due to its importance in aboriginal culture it should be a legal right, which should provide the selected adoptive parents with all the rights and regulations of a biological parent. Aside from this point, any other adoption service allows the biological parents to choose who is to raise their child. We honor laws regarding open and closed adoption cases in Manitoba already but they are done through an adoption agency. The institution of an adoption agency may not appeal to many aboriginal biological parents who are unable to raise their child themselves as Manitoba’s past institutions have been anything but fair. As Jon Gerrard explained that the child welfare system has a direct correlation with the residential school system and the removal of aboriginal children from their homes, it is clear to understand why it must be hard to trust an institution. The residential school system continues to relate to the child welfare system as the pattern of not knowing how to parent is a prevailing concern with survivors. A pattern has developed; years ago children were removed and taken to the residential school, separated from their parents they themselves never learnt parenting skills and then had children continuing the cycle. This has lead us with aboriginal children in present day in the foster care system often being moved to different houses during their childhood. It should also be noted that in some cases children do not even get the privilege of foster care and instead are put into group homes as young adolescents and children. I feel the most important thing in any child’s life is stability and routine. Through the traditional practice of customary adoption these needs can be met, and the number of children in the foster care system can be reduced.

  5. Customary adoption is one idea in a large group of topics where traditional Indigenous legal customs have been ignored and need to be reconsidered. Though it can at times be a weak argument to say that because a tradition or way of doing things has been around for a significant period of time it is obviously correct, in the case of customary adoption it may be the accurate argument. In the podcast Dr. Otis mentions to the listeners that customary adoption is one aspect of the Indigenous legal systems that has existed for as long as Indigenous people have been around and has remained even with the colonial take-over.
    Indigenous people existed for years before Europeans travelled to the land mass we now refer to as Canada. They did not exist as barbarians roaming the land without care or cause, but as culturally rich and sophisticated groups of people. They had hierarchy for leadership, specific duties and roles for members of the group, and systems of care for individual members. All these aspects of Indigenous culture point toward a certain level of sophistication that deserves recognition for the legal customs present in this culture.
    It is high time for the provinces of Canada to catch up to the territories with the recognition of Indigenous rights. Colonial customs were forced onto Indigenous people without taking time to observe and recognize the complex cultural and legal customs of the group of people they were attempting to over-take. With the 2008 claims of the federal government that reconciliation is on the agenda, action must be taken by all forms of government, not just at the federal level. CFS has been a broken program for decades. It is clear that alternative means of child care are needed. When considering something as highly cherished at children it seems ridiculous to act in any way other than what is best for the child; if this means allowing customary adoption, then what are we waiting for? Come on, Manitoba, let’s go!

  6. I just currently became fully aware of what customary adoption was and I must say I support the idea after our most recent class with guest speaker Jon Gerrard. After listen to Jon speak about the many different troubles with the Child and Family Services organization and there miss use of power I must say that customary adoption is the better way to go. I say this because with the CFS system many aboriginal children and children in general are bounced around from home to home and sometimes taken from loving foster parents who have done nothing wrong but love and nurture the child. Customary adoption eliminates the bouncing from home to home and allows for children to build trusting loving relationships with a parents/care giving figure. These relationships go a long way in child development and are essential for child development. I would hope that the legal system in Canada would come to its senses and understand that customary adoption is a legal agreement between two parties for the care and development of a child. The legal system should also understand that maybe in their view there are some legal issues but the main area of concern should be the child and the environment that child will be placed in. I believe that finding a loving environment for children is a very important for the development of the children. If children don't grow up in this type of environment it can lead to many issues for the child later in life. This can also lead to many other legal issues for children if the lack of a caring environment leads them down those roads.

  7. The idea of Aboriginal customary adoption is a new concept to me. Upon first learning about this system I felt like there could be many pitfalls involved in it such as children being unaccounted for, children going to unfit parents, or simply having a lack of a paper trail. I think there are also risks of a child being put into a home in which the adoptive parents aren't able to properly provide for the child (although they still may be in a better situation than with their biological parents). I think it is important to have SOME laws which would control this practice but maybe these would be best created by provincial or federal aboriginal government. I understand that this is my Euro centric colonialist upbringing speaking through me but it is hard to ignore my original gut feeling. Upon researching the topic more I've realized that there are many benefits to the system such as: having a child being cared for by known community members, the ability to stay on the reservation of their birth, access to biological parents, and a continued connection to the child's cultural heritage. 1 It is strange that Canada would be so reluctant to allow this form of adoption to take place when there is such a backlog of parent-less children who are being held in institutions or group homes while awaiting for a family to let them in. The Canadian adoption system is a hugely complex and slow moving bureaucratic system which can have families waiting for several years before their paperwork is finished. While this form of adoption is done through less formal means it still is an agreement between the biological parents and the adoptive ones. This is yet another example of the Canadian government not fulfilling the statements they made in 2008. Maybe our politicians should be the ones involved in an idle no more movement – they sure aren't doing much right now!


  8. This blog post caught my attention after Dr. Ouellette’s brief discussion about Customary Adoption in class this week. I have to agree with Dr. Ouellette’s opinion on this matter, especially after the talk by Dr. Gerrard about Child and Family Services (CFS). CFS sounds like a broken bureaucratic agency with serious problems. I think an age-old and customary practice like Customary Adoption would be one such healthy alternative to CFS. To me, Customary Adoption sounds like an effective and efficient way to truly help children. Like Dr. Ouellette said in this blog, children should not be continually moved around in foster homes. Children deserve a stable home environment, and perhaps Customary Adoption would provide that for children.

    Regarding legal recognition for Customary Adoption, I think it should definitely be considered among the provinces in Canada. Legitimate customs of aboriginal peoples should be recognized, especially if they don’t contradict major legal principles. Perhaps Customary Adoption would have appeal to non-aboriginal people, and so could benefit various sectors of our population. I guess for me the biggest thing is not so much where a law or custom originates from, but how effective and beneficial it is. I certainly think that our society could use more aboriginal customs to counteract the bureaucratic super-powers our governments have increasingly become. Like we discussed in class Tuesday, those working with CFS are like ‘agents on the state’. I think Customary Adoption would help overturn that ‘agent of the state’ phenomenon, and some restore dignity to all those who have been affected by the harmful policies of CFS.

    Lastly, I would add that if Customary Adoption received recognition, it should follow some form standardized procedures. That way this process is standardized across multiple jurisdictions. I think if Customary Adoption is standardized - without having to become bureaucratic, than this will prevent abuses from occurring. There should be a process that will be easily recognized, whether the adoption takes place in Manitoba or Nunavut.

  9. I was surprised to learn that Indigenous peoples practiced their own traditional forms of child adoption. After learning this, I also found it surprising to learn that it was not always recognized by the Canadian Legal System, bringing up issues of Indigenous rights and freedoms. From my standpoint, any adoption that takes places should be at the best interest of the child. Within the Canadian legal system, this factor can often be forgotten, with those working with Child and Family Services may not know the child that well. I will argue that the well-being of the child is always kept in mind, however, it seems that many Aboriginal children are closely connected to traditions within the community. In traditional adoptions, it is up to the community to determine the best interest of the child, which seems logical, as those would be the people that know the child best. The rights of the biological parents also come into play, as they are also different in traditional adoptions. When a child is adopted through the Canadian Legal System, biological parents terminate their rights to the child. Through traditional adoptions, “the biological parents may return and demand before a court and judge the return of a child or children”. It is often considered in the best interest of the child to stay with the biological parents, and this does allow for that to happen. Although I am not sure I agree with a child returning their parents after establishing a life without them, each individual case is different, and what is best needs to be determined by the people close to the child.
    Beyond the best interest of the child, the legal rights of the parents is also important to consider. Traditional adoptions are not legally recognized, which complicates the situation further. In case of injuries or death, the child and parent may not always be protected. From that point of view, it would be easy to stay away from traditional adoptions, as many do, however, with Indigenous rights and freedoms in place, traditional adoptions could take place without worry and at the best interest of the child.

  10. This post caught my eye, as it was my first time being introduced to the Aboriginal peoples traditional form of adoption. After listening to Dr. Otis’ interview I can’t help but agree that this is yet another area where Aboriginals rights and obligations need to be recognized. I would like to support the idea of traditional customary adoption as I see the benefits for both the child and the biological parents. This form of adoption is seen to enable the biological parents to choose the adoptive parents, ensuring the child is able to grow in an environment that honors their own tribal and cultural beliefs. In addition, it could cut down on legal costs as well hopefully eliminate the potential of a child being ‘thrown’ around from home to home as may happen in our current adoption system.

    My concerns arise when thinking of the child as an individual. What if it really isn’t in the child’s best interest to continue to live with close family ties? I believe in some cases it might be to the child’s benefit to have an outside source go through a screened procedure to ensure a safe and supportive family for the child. For example, the orientation meetings, preparation workshops, and homestudy process are just some of the ways Child and Family Services ensure the adoptive parent(s)/family and child will be a good match. In addition, in Manitoba, when a family adopts a child permanently they may be eligible for adoption financial assistance to help cover the costs of adoption.

    As a final thought, I believe that if this is what the Aboriginal people see best for themselves and culture, they should be able to continue this form of traditional adoption without government forces towards assimilation, given they are able to provide evidence the adoptive family is able to meet the needs of the child.

  11. I was surprised when I came upon this article about traditional customary adoption in Aboriginal communities, because I was not aware of this practice. On one hand, I am in complete agreement that customary adoption can help keep Aboriginal people from “being moved between foster families” while being able to continue to be a part of their culture and develop a positive self-identity. Marilyn Poitras et al believe that “the focus (of traditional customary adoption) was always on the child and the extension of family, rather than the removal from the family” (2013, pg 11). Western adoption rarely accomplishes such a feat, which I agree is a lot better then being bounced around in foster care.
    However, in my opinion, the current state of many first nations communities is far from perfect. Many are fractured and are dealing with a variety of issues resulting from many things like colonization, residential schools and loss of identity. At one point the Aboriginal community may have been equipped to deal with customary adoptions, making sure that they were always in the best interest of the child, but with their current challenges, and lack of funding, how can one be sure that this would still occur in all communities?
    I believe that, at least for now, the two systems need to find a way to connect. Aboriginal customary adoptions should be the first option, if they are indeed at the best interest of the child. I found it shocking that Dr Otis was “concerned that,” due to CFS intervention in customary adoptions, “even though it might be in the best interest and welfare of the child some children may be prevented from being adopted.” If it is not in the best interest of the child, why should it be a negative thing if an adoption is prevented? The child’s welfare should always be more important then keeping him/her in their culture, although I acknowledge that these two factors are interrelated.
    Conversely, Poitras et all also claim that there is no way to connect the two systems because they clash so much and in one “children are gifts from the Creator” and in the other are “wards or dependents” (2013 pg. 11). While I do not claim that the current system, particularly CFS, is perfect, I believe that at this current stage it may be best for both systems to work together for the best interest of Aboriginal children. While there are situations where children in foster care are seen more as dependents/wards, there are also loving (non-aboriginal) families that see their adopted (or foster) Aboriginal children as a gift.

    Poitras, Marilyn, Zlotkin, Norman. An Overview of the Recognition of Customary Adoption in Canada. University of Saskatchewan College of Law: 2013.

  12. This article attempts to examine an extremely complex issue in a very brief form. The issue of traditional adoption necessarily opens a bureaucratic can of worms when viewed in the larger context of Canadian law, one representative of a vast number of issues relating traditional laws and culture to life within the Canadian parliamentary context.
    Canada has strict laws governing the adoption of babies and children. I currently have two friends going through this process. One is pursuing his options through Metis Child and Family Services. He is a Metis man married to a Pakistani woman. The other couple is of purely British descent, pursing a baby via Adoption Options.
    Both couples face a long wait and much scrutiny during their journey, though the Metis waiting list is significantly shorter. Both must complete many pages of paperwork, and suffer hours-long home inspections before they can be approved to be considered as adoptive parents.
    Traditional customary adoption among First Nations peoples expedites the process and keeps the needs of the child at the forefront of decision making, and places the child’s cultural needs at the centre of the issue. The birth parents place the child in a home which they feel to be safe and nurturing. The arbitrary opinion of the state is not welcome in the decision-making of the family.
    Additionally, First Nations families traditionally view childcare as a “communal responsibility” (Blackstock, 2010). This means that the formalization of the adoption process is completely unnecessary, culturally, and families are unable to see the value of it. Naturally, this creates conflict with federal adoption laws.
    This of course has far-reaching implications when we look at the bigger picture of respecting First Nations laws and justice systems. The federal government has been seen in the past to make half-hearted attempts to accommodate First Nations peoples, without really committing to long-lasting support. This is true in the case of adoption as well.

    First Nations Child & Family Caring Society of Canada (2010). Submission to: Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities: Cindy Blackstock, PhD.

  13. Before reading this article, I had never heard of the term “customary adoption”, let alone what the term meant. I was not aware that Indigenous peoples have practiced, for so long their own customs in regards to child adoption. In my opinion, the most important aspect or priority of child adoption should be the physical health and well-being of the child. But I feel that because of the constant battle between the two systems, maybe people are forgetting about the child.

    I researched Customary Adoption in order to learn more about the topic and found the definition “customary adoption transfers the custody of a child to the care and protection of adoptive parents without the termination of parental rights” (Tribal Customary Adoption: A Culturally Appropriate Opinion for Tribes and Indian Families, slide 8. I feel that it is incredibly important for the family and the child to make private custody arrangements with the adoptive family and that all are in agreement of the decisions made regarding things such as visitation of the biological parents. It is also important that when considering the arrangements, the child be able to maintain or build on their cultural identity by being raised in an Aboriginal community.

    If a parent feels that they are unable to provide adequate care for their child, they should have the right to find a home better suited for their child. In fact, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 25 states that “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.” I think that this Article sums up quite nicely the fact that anybody with a child has the right to request assistance or find a home better suited for their child. In conclusion I would just like to say that I fully support Customary Adoption as the well-being of the child should ALWAYS take priority.

  14. The concept of customary adoption is a concept I had not heard of before reading this article. To my chagrin, my initial reaction after reading this article was one of skepticism. Upon further thought it makes sense to me. First Nations communities know the best course of action that would suit their needs. Keeping the child within the community and raising them in their culture gives the child the best chance to lead a normal life. The devil we know in the state adoption system will always be disconnected at the community level. This leaves many children in a state of limbo when traveling through the system. The advantage of community based, custom adoptions maintains a safe environment for many children. The added benefit of remaining flexible and proactive is an aspect that is lacking in the beaurocracy of CFS.
    An article written for an organization based in Saskatchewan states that customary adoption is defined in a few places, “Statutory recognition is found only in the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Yukon, the province of British Columbia, and federally in the Indian Act. In Northwest Territories and Nunavut legislation, “custom adoption” is not defined.” (Poitras, 2013, p. 4) The nature of these programs is not elaborated on. The group recommends implementing the practice within the province and I would tend to agree. The important thing to note is that the communities affected by these decisions should have more of a say in the process. Many of these programs still leave the final say with the province, and this does nothing to solve the problem. Respective governments should realise that their opinions are not omnipotent and communities should have more of a say in the fate of their families. I consider myself a fairly well informed individual and there is a lot needed to be done to inform the public of this issue.


    Poitras, M., & Zlotkin, N. (2013, February 15). An Overview of the Recognition of Customary Adoption in Canada. First Nations Families and Community Institute. Retrieved February 4, 2014, from

  15. This post discusses the custom of Aboriginal customary adoption. This is a tradition that I have not heard of before. I had no understanding about what this custom meant or how it was applied within the Aboriginal culture. This legal system allows Aboriginal parents to decide who they give their children to and allows those children to “maintain their cultural, linguistic and spiritual identity” (British Columbia, 2013). This practice can eliminate the involvement of the Canadian government and protects the child from going into the foster care system. This system meets the needs of Aboriginal peoples and gives them control over this important matter (Ouellette, 2013).

    I think the lack of support in this matter from the Canadian government is unjust. Their main concern should be to provide the best care for those children. I do not believe putting them in foster care is the right decision, if there is an adoptive parent that is willing to care for them. If those parents are able to provide the best environment for that child, they should be given that authority. Especially in Manitoba, I would think that the provincial government would allow them to execute that right. Manitoba has a large Aboriginal population that it would make sense for those people to have access to that right. It is unfortunate that only one province has acknowledged this traditional system, but has done it in a way that does not actually give Indigenous people full control (Ouellette, 2013). The Federal Government needs to provide Indigenous people with that support in accessing their human right. I think if they had some role in this process Aboriginal’s would be in control of their own adoption system. A study done by Cindy Blackstock describes the inherent need of Federal support. She believes that “it is imperative that the Federal Government provide proper financial resources in order to actualize the custom adoption statutes in ways that meaningfully support First Nations children, birth families/birth extended families and adoptive families/adoptive extended families”(Blackstock, 2010, p.4). I agree with her and believe that this issue needs to be in the hands of Indigenous people. It is their right to provide for their children and have that right acknowledged throughout Canada.

    Blackstock,C.(2010). Supporting First Nations Adoption. First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada. Retrieved from
    British Columbia. (2013). Custom Adoption Fact Sheet. Retrieved from
    Ouellette, Robert-Falcon. (Director) (2013. July 18). At the Edge of Canada: Indigenous
    Research. Traditional Aboriginal Customary Adoption: A Collective and Individual Human Right with Dr Ghislan Otis [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from