National Post

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Saturday, March 20, 1999

Native boy to leave Manitoba for new home with U.S. family
Custody battle: Blood relatives fought unsuccessfully to have child raised in his native culture

Janice Tibbetts
Southam News

A small aboriginal boy was to leave for his new home in the United States yesterday to begin a new life with his adoptive family after his blood relatives exhausted legal efforts to keep him in Canada.

Native activists held a last-minute rally at the Winnipeg legislature yesterday, only hours before the four-year-old boy's natural grandfather went to court to try to hang on a little longer to the child, who has spent his young life in an international custody battle.

"Our position is that this child should not be removed from his homeland," said Eric Robinson, an Ojibway Indian and member of the Manitoba legislature who has been at the grandfather's side for more than a week, helping him lobby for the young boy to be raised in his native culture.

In Connecticut, the boy's adoptive grandfather anxiously awaited his arrival yesterday, fearing that something would go wrong at the last minute to prevent the boy from coming to live in his sprawling farmhouse.

"It's hard on the nerves," he conceded from his home, where he was awaiting word on when his wife would arrive from Winnipeg with the little boy.

The youngster has become a cause celebre among Manitoba aboriginal groups, who contend his adoption into a white family of means, ordered last month by the Supreme Court of Canada, has rekindled a long-simmering debate over the ills of raising native children outside their own culture.

A judge in British Columbia, where the boy's biological grandfather lived until his recent move to his home reserve north of Winnipeg, ruled this week that the child should go to the United States yesterday because he has been under too much media scrutiny in Manitoba.

"He's become a symbol of a cultural and social debate that needs to be carried on," Justice Robert Bauman said Wednesday.

"While it's an appropriate debate, it's not appropriate that the child be at the centre of it."

The boy has been caught in a tug-of-war for most of his life.

His mother, who was adopted by the Connecticut family when she was a toddler, is a child of a government policy known as the "Sixties Scoop," in which about 15,000 aboriginal children across the country were adopted into non-native homes.

She has relinquished custody of her son and is now in a U.S. jail, but she wants him to be raised by his natural grandfather, a welfare recipient.

There is a court-order ban on publication of the names of those involved in the case.

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