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Unwed mothers and coerced adoption subject of new B.C. lawsuit

The Salvation Army is suing The Children's Aid Society of Vancouver, B.C; B.C. Children's Aid Society of the Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver; and Children's Aid Societies ABC.
The Salvation Army is suing B.C. children's aid societies that dealt with coerced adoptions.

The Salvation Army has filed a suit against several B.C. children’s aid organizations alleging they coerced unwed mothers into putting up their children for adoption.

Named as defendants are the Children’s Aid Society of Vancouver, B.C; B.C. Children’s Aid Society of the Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver; and Children’s Aid Societies ABC. The claim said the obligations of the Children's Aid Society of Vancouver were transferred to the provincial government after its dissolution in 1973.

A B.C. Supreme Court notice of civil claim filed Nov. 20 lays out a history of the situation that involves the Salvation Army being subject of a class-action suit alleging abuse at maternity homes it operated.

In Vancouver, the Salvation Army ran the Maywood Home on Oak Street between 1940 and 1989. There, the organization provided unmarried pregnant women with housing, food, assistance and health care.

The suit said it was the children’s aid societies that provided child welfare services, including administration and supervision of adoptions, in B.C.

“The Salvation Army did not play a role in the adoption process,” the claim said.

A B.C. Supreme Court class action against the Salvation Army filed in October 2021 alleged abuse, battery, negligence and breach of fiduciary duty. It has denied the allegations in a Feb. 1 response.

Now, the Salvation Army asserts in the new claim, the societies are responsible for the adoptions, consents and decision-making.

The new claim said the societies owed a duty of care to the class-action suit members and contributed to the losses suffered by those people.

In the new suit, the Salvation Army seeks contributions and indemnity for amounts it may be found liable for in the class action.

It claims the societies were negligent and failed to meet their duties toward the class-action suit members. Further, it seeks costs for defending the class action and for the current lawsuit.

Archdiocese, ministry response

Matthew Furtado, spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Vancouver, said the issue is a very important one for the archdiocese and one it has spent much time working on.

He pointed to a May 2022 apology the archdiocese gave about coerced adoption.

“Canadian societal customs from the 1940s through the 1970s did not consider, or recognize, an unwed mother as a responsible parent,” that apology said. “To our regret we acted on that conviction. Our participation in a system that separated a young unmarried mother from her newly born child was, we now acknowledge, a practice that caused great harm and hurt.

“We are truly sorry for participating in that practice,” the apology said.

Ministry of Children and Family Development spokesperson Ashley Williams said the ministry couldn’t to speak to matters that are before the courts.