CAS Closes Case on Ojibwe child; “We respect Makayla’s choice.”

NEW CREDIT – Andrew Koster, Executive Director of the Children’s Aid Society of Brant, stated that CAS will not be investigating further, files have been closed and that without question, Makayla Sault will not be apprehended and forced back into chemotherapy.

Koster gave the news at a community meeting of approximately 40 invited officials and over 60 supporters Tuesday afternoon. “We do not have any intention of interfering with the family or apprehending Makayla or any of her other siblings. We respect Makayla’s choice. This is a unanimous decision from the Children’s Aid Society. We have no intention of taking this thing any further. We’ve looked at the information at this point that we have. We respect the wishes of the family, the wishes of Makayla and the wishes of the community. We will not be apprehending. We want to keep our word.”

Sally Rivers, Director of Brant Native Services of CAS, expressed sadness about what the Sault family is undergoing not only in terms of the illness of their child, but also the anxiety that threats issued by oncologists and the staff at McMaster Children’s Hospital brought to the family dynamic. Rivers said that all staff share in that sadness and said, “our hope is that the outcome of this meeting is a good one for everybody, especially for Makayla.”

Rivers further spoke on behalf of CAS Native Services, saying the organization “acknowledges and respects [indigenous] medicine.” Rivers said that the Native Services Branch is aware that the Sault family are treating Makayla through Onongwatri:yo: and that they, as an organization “acknowledge and honour Makayla’s choice.”

Rivers, who is indigenous as well, told over 100 people gathered in New Credit today, “In our families there isn’t a hierarchy, this is contrary to a western way of thinking. This is a decision we [CAS Native Services Branch] have made as a team. We honour Makayla, the decision and the family.”

Chief Bryan LaForme thanked the over 100 people in attendance for supporting the New Credit community and respecting their decision regarding Makayla. LaForme said “Chief and Council also support the decision that the family have made.”

At this point, CAS closing the file means that Makayla will not be put back in chemotherapy against her will. A legal representative addressed the crowd saying that CAS is the authority under Ontario Law to take this case forward or close it. She said that McMaster Children’s Hospital saw what they perceived as a “failure to administer medical services” to Makayla and that as a part of fiduciary responsibility to the Child and Family Services Act, they had no choice but to report the Saults to the Children’s Aid Society.

The lawyer also stated that if McMaster wanted to further pursue placing Makayla back in chemotherapy that they could theoretically take the case to Superior court to try and override the decision by the CAS, however it was her understanding that was not the current position of McMaster Children’s Hospital.

McMaster Children’s Hospital issued a statement to the Two Row Times Tuesday evening which reads “We feel very much for Makayla’s family and the heartbreaking circumstance they are in. McMaster Children’s Hospital respects the decision of the Children’s Aid Society of Brant. It is the role of the Children’s Aid Society to weigh circumstances and make the difficult decisions they do about protecting children and preserving families. It is our role at McMaster Children’s Hospital to provide the best care possible for children, using the best medical evidence. We want to say that our door is always open to providing care to Makayla and her family.”

Dianne Longboat was in attendance as an invited official to the meeting and made the recommendation that McMaster should receive cultural competency training to prevent matters like this from arising again. Longboat suggested connecting McMaster Children’s Hospital with the University of Toronto’s Office of Indigenous Medicine.

Sonya Sault, Makayla’s mother also expressed that the family has been in contact with a lawyer and told they have grounds to make a case against McMaster Children’s Hospital for discrimination and human rights violations. At this time the Sault family has not made a decision as to whether or not they will proceed with that case.

Sault broke down into tears saying that lead oncologist Dr. Barr and other staff within the McMaster Children’s Hospital came to the family with threats from the very beginning. New Credit Band Councilors closed the meeting unanimously agreeing to follow up on this matter to ensure no other families in the territory experience similar discrimination.

The meeting was closed and Rivers presented the Saults with a gift of a blanket and a large braid of sweetgrass, along with words of reconciliation on behalf of the Native Services Branch of the CAS. Makayla’s family members embraced one another with happy tears and the youth of the New Credit First Nation came together to sing honour songs for the family.

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About The Author

Nahnda Garlow, Onondaga under the wing of the Beaver Clan of Six Nations, is our Arts & Culture editor. Her popular column, Scone Dogs and Seed Beads brings weekly thoughts on current day indigenous identity. She is a self-proclaimed "rez girl" who brings to the Two Row Times years of experience as a cultural interpreter, traditional dancer and beadwork aficionado.

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