A couple from Campbell River is camping in front of the B.C. legislature in Victoria in protest after officials removed their newborn baby from their care.
Sonja and Philip Hathaway have been in Victoria since the end of February, when Sonja began to experience complications due to her pregnancy.
The new parents stayed in Victoria General Hospital for two weeks after giving birth to their two-month-premature baby girl March 11. Once Sonja healed, the couple moved into Jeneece Place – a temporary home for people to say while receiving medical care – while their baby Amella was cared for by nurses until she too was strong enough to leave.
The couple was thrilled to have brought a baby girl into the world, after having previously lost a daughter after a complicated pregnancy.
“She had her own little plans to come out early,” Sonja said. “She was so beautiful, I was crying.”
However, Philip and Sonja were still settling a past legal issue and were told Sonja would have to be placed in a transitional house in Vancouver, without Philip. However, Sonja said she was assured she would be able to retain care of their child.
While the situation was not ideal, Philip said they agreed to it so Sonja could stay with her daughter.
However, the night before Sonja and Amella were set to leave, the couple said they were met at the hospital doors by case workers from the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
“We went to get her [Sonja] dinner … we go back and they say, ‘We’ve apprehended your child.’ They were waiting outside of the hospital,” Philip said. “They wouldn’t even let us up.”
They were told they would be able to check back “in a day or two,” to learn more about the situation, Philip said.
“We immediately packed our stuff and came here, even though we could have stayed at Jeneece Place another night, the police even offered to get us a hotel room – we’ve got money for a hotel room, we’re not leaving from here,” Philip said. “We’re not disappearing. We’re not leaving until we get an answer.”
Sonja, who is a member of the Dene First Nation, is concerned that with each moment that passes, she is losing precious time to instill in her baby tradition and language.
“I speak to my baby in my language,” she said. “The only way she’s going to learn her language is as an infant.”
As of now, the couple has no idea when they will be able to take their baby home, but will get to visit her – separately and for only 30 minutes each.
“We’re heartbroken, it is horrible what’s happening,” Sonja said. “It is not right. They’re violating my rights and my daughter’s rights. She’s breastfeeding and they’re not doing anything to get the milk. I don’t know who has my baby right now.”
Despite the unknowns and painful realization they won’t have Amella in their care, the couple made it clear they wouldn’t be leaving Victoria – or the legislature – without their child.
“If we have to sit out here for the next six months, they’ll have to start to recognize these things are going on,” Philip said.