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Is ‘race’ a factor that is considered in custody cases?

By: Steven Benmor, B.Sc., LL.B., Family Lawyer

Jurisdiction: Ontario (Canada)

The Supreme Court of Canada was asked this question in a case involving a Caucasian Canadian mother and African Canadian father in a dispute regarding custody of their four-year old son (Van de Perre v. Edwards, 2001 S.C.C. 60). Theodore Edwards, a former Vancouver Grizzlies basketball player, was seeking custody of his son. At the trial, the court granted custody to the mother.

The father appealed this decision to the British Columbia Court of Appeal and argued that race was a relevant factor that should have been considered by the court when deciding custody. The appellate court conducted a full review of the evidence in determining the best interests of the child and, indeed, took into consideration the issue of race. The appellate court allowed the appeal and granted the father custody of the child.

The mother then appealed this decision to the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa. The highest court addressed the issue of race by stating that ‘the question of which parent will best be able to contribute to a healthy racial socialization and overall healthy development of the child was a question of fact to be determined by the courts on a case-by-case basis.’

In the end, the Supreme Court of Canada decided that an appellate court should not intervene in a trial judge’s decision and granted the mother custody.

Steven Benmor

About the author: Steven Benmor practices Family Law in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Visit Steven Benmor’s online Family Law Resource Center for concise answers to many more frequently asked Family law questions, feature articles on Family law topics, dozens of links to other Family law websites, and more at The information on this page is for discussion purposes only. It is by no means legal advice or even a statement of the law on this subject. Please do not rely on the accuracy or completeness of this information. Any question or concern elicited by the information on this page should be taken to a lawyer who will consider the facts of each case and the legal remedies available.