B.C. pastor with 'troubling views' barred from seeing his Indigenous foster children | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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B.C. pastor with 'troubling views' barred from seeing his Indigenous foster children

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A B.C. pastor and missionary who had three Indigenous foster children removed from his home, will not be allowed to see them after what a judge described as his "very troubling views" regarding Indigenous spiritual beliefs and practices.

According to a March 31 B.C. Supreme Court decision, the unnamed non-Indigenous pastor and his wife – referred to as the "Ws" in the court document – had fostered three Indigenous children for many years through a long-term contract with a foster care agency

One of the children lived with the couple from ages six to 13 years old while two other children lived there from shortly after birth, although the court documents don't give an age.

The decision doesn't say where B.C. the pastor lived but the court proceeding took place in Abbotsford.

The court document says that initial social worker reports reflected that the pastor and his wife provided "a stable supportive environment" for the children, and supported the children's Indigenous cultural connections.

"The Ws took online cultural awareness classes, participated in Indigenous 'culturally appropriate activities' such as drumming, berry picking, and eating bannock and salmon, assembled a library of culturally appropriate materials, attended Indigenous events with the children, and, took the children for yearly visits with their mother and other siblings," the decision reads.

However, the court documents say there were concerns about the Ws spanking children in their care and "substantial concerns" about lack of supervision and inappropriate physical discipline.

"A troubling incident show(s)... that an investigation had disclosed inappropriate conduct regarding the children’s genitalia," the decision says, but doesn't go into details.

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The decision says the couple did missionary work in South America for several years and regularly took the children with them for months at a time.

In the fall of 2021, the foster care agency became aware of a lecture the pastor had given in 2015, about missionary work among Canadian Indigenous Peoples.

"The (lecture) reflects very troubling views regarding Indigenous spiritual beliefs and practices and reflects an insistence that Indigenous Peoples need to be ministered to," B.C. Supreme Court Justice Ardith Walkem said in the decision. "The lecture argues that Indigenous Peoples do not know their own religious and spiritual traditions and speaks in a disparaging way about Indigenous spirituality as being a construct of government and social service agencies. (The pastor) discusses his own experience of fostering Indigenous children and being pressured to instill Indigenous spiritual practices. He refers to Indigenous communities as a 'religious marketplace' for which the church is in competition with other churches. Indigenous Peoples are described as having been conditioned by governments and other churches to be passive and 'depending on handouts.'"

The unnamed Indigenous Nation where the children were from – and who were still involved in their lives – had never taken any issue with the pastor's religious beliefs but that changed after the emergence of the lecture.

"The Indigenous Nation conveyed their unease that the children were being cared for in a home where people expressed and held such views about Indigenous Peoples," the justice said.

In a meeting shortly afterwards, the pastor told the foster care agency that they were being discriminated against for their religious beliefs.

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Shortly afterwards a podcast and videos emerged where the pastor expressed a "lack of acceptance of homosexuality and multiple genders" along with skepticism about masks and vaccines.

The pastor's wife said she was against vaccinations, but said she'd take the children to the doctor. A doctor's note showed that the children said they didn't want to be vaccinated.

Shortly afterwards the foster care agency and Indigenous Nation determined it was not in the best interest of the Children to remain with the Ws, and removed the children and terminated the contract.

The children went to live with their great aunt on the Indigenous Peoples’ territory.

"The children have settled well into their extended family placement, and have strengthened their relationship with their mother, siblings and other family and community members," the justice said.

The decision says a week after the children were removed, the foster care agency received 79 complaints about the children from members of the Ws church.

"(The foster care) agency was concerned because the individuals contacting them were aware of confidential information regarding the children," the decision says.

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Not long afterwards the pastor and his wife turned up unannounced at the home where the children lived with their great aunt.

"They were asked to leave," the justice says. "The Ws then went to the children’s mother’s home and were also asked to leave."

The couple was then banned from the community and the RCMP was involved.

"This context indicates to me that the access order sought could be disruptive of the children’s placement within their Indigenous Nation, exacerbate conflict, and not be in the children’s best interests," the justice said.

In arguing for access to the children the pastor says the videos and podcasts are not relevant because the children never saw them.

However, the Justice dismisses the argument.

"I find it unlikely the Ws’ views were not passed on in any way in the home. Additionally, the children were actively involved in the Ws’ church community and travelled with them when Mr. W. did missionary work in South America. The views Mr. W. shared in the video... are deeply concerning," the Justice ruled. "The Indigenous Nation and (the foster care) agency are justifiably and reasonably concerned about views expressed by Mr. W., in particular, about Indigenous Peoples, including Indigenous spiritual traditions."

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Ultimately, the Justice rules it's not in the best interest of the children for the pastor and his wife to have access to the children and dismisses their application.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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