Monday, July 22, 2024

Petition launched after Indigenous couple’s baby taken by province at Victoria hospital


Baby Amella was taken from her parents on April 17th at the Victoria General Hospital (VGH) shortly after she came into this world, and has been held by the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) since that time.

Amella’s mother, Sonja Hathaway, alleges that her newly born daughter was taken from her illegally, without proper reason and with no due process. 

Now, Sonja and her husband Phillip, Amella’s father, have been camping out on the Legislature grounds in protest of their baby’s seizure and they have launched a petition to have their daughter returned to them .

“Amella is not just another child. She is our precious daughter,” wrote Sonja on the newly launched ‘save Amella’ website. “She is everything to us.” 

Amella was born on March 11th, two months premature. She had been at VGH since her birth while she gained the strength to leave the hospital in the arms of her parents, but that was not how things played out.

Sonja describes the actions of the MCFD as “sitting like vultures in the shadows” as they waited before taking Amella without warning or just cause.

Amella’s mother says that any issues the provincial ministry could be concerned about have been exaggerated, and the Hathaways have been offered no support to aid them in taking their own child home with them. 

The issues the MCFD has with allowing the couple to take Amella are alleged drinking while pregnant, which Sonja says was very infrequent; a history of drug use, which Amella’s mother admits were seldom and a domestic incident in which Sonja’s husband had pushed her and she had slipped while on ice in December 2022.

Sonja is upset because she says the social worker she’s been dealing with is not Indigenous,  is extremely young and making life-altering decisions based upon false pretenses. 

According to Sonja, one of the main falsities the MCFD are going off to keep Amella away from her parents is that the couple planned on living together on a makeshift boat, travelling from Victoria to Campbell River, which she claims is incorrect. 

Amella’s mother says she went to the MCFD to apply for housing while she was planning for the baby’s arrival. She had also been attending several meetings and groups to prepare herself for motherhood. 

Through all those months leading up to Amella’s birth, Sonja says she has been given no indication by the MCFD that her baby would be taken from her.

After Amella had been taken, Sonja had to jump through several hoops to even understand why her baby was gone. 

One such hoop was a teleconference in which Sonja and her husband spoke with a facilitator from the MCFD. She allegedly forced Sonja to speak English even though her first language is Dene Tha, spoke down to and insulted Phillip saying he “wasn’t part of the family”, and spoke of unproven and inaccurate facts as if they were true. 

On April 19th, Sonja and Phillip say when they went to drop off milk for the baby, they were met by a police presence who forced them to separate before seeing their child who was allegedly soaked in urine and wearing the same clothing as the day before. 

Victoria Buzz reached out to Minister Mitzi Dean of the MCFD, who responded with the following statement:

“Due to confidentiality, I’m not able to publicly comment on, or even confirm whether the ministry is involved with, any person or family,” said Dean.

“What I can say is that my ministry works every day to keep children safe with their families and connected to their culture and communities, whenever possible, as we all agree this leads to the best outcomes for children.” 

“The safety and well-being of a child is always the ministry’s first priority. The decision to remove a child is not made lightly – it is always an absolute last resort to ensure the child’s safety.” 

“The ministry takes every step possible to keep a child connected to their parents, extended family or community – and staff continuously explore all the options to keep a family together whenever possible.”

“Lack of housing and poverty alone are not grounds for removing a child, and legally the ministry cannot take a child into care for those reasons alone. The ministry can only bring a child into care when there are protection concerns.”

A protection hearing is to be held on April 20th that will have Sonja and Phillip go before a judge in a Family Law case to advocate for the return of their child. 

As of this publication, Sonja’s petition to have her child returned to her is at 935 of 1,000 signatures. 

Curtis Blandy

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