Racine V. Woods Essay

1796 words - 8 pages

The following case analysis seeks to examine the Supreme Court’s decisions in Racine v. Woods, [1983] 2 S.C.R. 173, in regard to the legal questions, basis of reasoning, as well as the cultural implications.
In order to fully understand the outcomes of this case, it is necessary to briefly review the legal issues that prompted the appellants and respondent to pursue legal action. The initial factor was the apprehension of a six week old infant named Leticia Grace Woods, on October 20th, 1976, by C.A.S. of central Manitoba. Upon removing her from her mother’s custody, in an effort to protect her, she was placed in a foster home as stipulated in the Child Welfare Act, C.C.S.M., c. C80. ...view middle of the document...

Mrs. Woods’ motion was subsequently followed by a de facto adoption order by the Racine’s. The Racine’s were granted adoption of Leticia at trial, only to lose her in the Court of Appeal, wherein she became a ward of the Court. At this time, the Racine’s were given custody of Leticia with the notion that Mrs. Woods would thus apply for custody or access. The Racine’s appealed to the Supreme Court and Mrs. Woods cross-appealed. The Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Racine’s, which resulted in the reinstatement of the adoption order.
The central issue upon which the Supreme Court based their decision was in regard to the best interests of the child. They looked closely at the nature v. nurture argument, ruling that her psychological parents, the Racine’s, were capable of providing a healthier environment than her biological mother, Mrs. Woods. When looking at this case from a solely legal perspective, it is clear that the Court made the correct choice, considering Mrs. Woods’ ongoing battle with substance abuse coupled with her abusive relationship. However, this case, as with many could not be looked at simply from a legal perspective. Complex cultural aspects are embedded within the case that had to be considered in order to properly gauge the decisions and the effects of that decision. In the past, children were automatically placed with their biological parents or relatives, which, was viewed as standard procedure within the legal framework. Societal norms have progressed in such a way that allow for a more activist approach to the placement of children. This progression is mentioned further by the Supreme Court Judge in the following;
The Law no longer treats children as the property of those who gave them birth but focuses on what is in their best interests. In determining the best interests of the child, the significance of cultural background and heritage as opposed to bonding abates over time: the’ closer the bond that develops with the prospective adoptive parents the less important the racial element.
The racial element in this case was used by Mrs. Woods as a tool by which she could play into the emotions of mainstream media, in an effort to reach the public. When looking at Mrs. Woods’ actions, specifically her initiation of a media event during her visit with her daughter, one cannot help but view her intentions as misplaced. It is likely that she loved her daughter greatly, but the fact remained that she refused to consider the best interests of her daughter, instead, opting for a media spectacle painting the picture of an oppressed Indian woman, suffering at the hands of the white man, while simultaneously perpetuating the idea of cultural preservation. In spite of this, the issue of variance in equality must also be considered, with regard to Mrs. Woods’ experience. The fact that Mrs. Woods was Indian, with a difficult colonial past, directly correlates to her placement, and treatment by society and the way in which she...

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