National Post

Thursday, February 18, 1999

Adoptive family wins custody of native boy
Supreme Court will not deliver written reasons for ruling

Janice Tisbetts
National Post

OTTAWA - The Supreme Court of Canada ordered yesterday that an aboriginal boy be taken from his poor blood family and returned to his white adoptive family in the United States.

The snap ruling from the bench overturned an earlier decision from the B.C. Court of Appeal that had found three-year-old Ishmael Haimerl was better off being raised by Hubert Morrisseau, his biological grandfather, in native culture rather than grow up with adoptive grandparents on a sprawling farm in Connecticut.

The court's nine judges, immediately after hearing both sides in the dispute, instead sided with an earlier ruling from the B.C. Supreme Court, which had awarded custody to the adoptive grandparents, Nancy and Duncan Haimerl, saying they offered a superior parenting and family environment compared with Mr. Morrisseau, a welfare recipient for the past decade who lives with his common-law wife, Jackie Smith, and their young daughter.

Duncan Haimerl is a newspaper journalist who earns about $52,000 (US) and Nancy Haimerl works part-time for a computer software company.

Ishmael's mother, Melissa Haimerl, had given up custody of the child but intervened in the court case on Mr. Morrisseau's side.

Ms. Haimerl, an Ojibway originally from Swan Lake, Man., was adopted by the Haimerls when she was four years old and said in documents filed with the court that she didn't want her child to grow up like she did, with a feeling that she never belonged.

The Supreme Court will not hand down written reasons for its ruling.

The decision means Ishmael, who has lived with Mr. Morrisseau for the past two years, will return to Connecticut, where he lived for the first eight months of his life.

Mr. Morrisseau recently moved from Vancouver to his original Ojibway reserve north of Winnipeg with Ishmael.

The Haimerls had argued that a decision to side with the natural family would have been "excessive multiculturalism rooted in a regrettable form of political correctness." The Supreme Court, in choosing the Haimerls, rejected the B.C. Court of Appeal's contention that the courts should abide by recent legislative trends to keep native children in native families. The B.C. Supreme Court also took into account other cultural considerations when it awarded custody to the Haimerls. Ishmael is an American citizen and he has an absentee father who is black The Haimerls have promised to teach Ishmael about his aboriginal heritage along with his Afro-American heritage.

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