In February, Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba found Canada had breached its “duty of care”. Canada failed to take reasonable steps to prevent thousands of on-reserve children from losing their indigenous heritage during the ’60s Scoop.
They suffered due to placement in non-aboriginal homes from 1965 to 1984 under terms of a federal-provincial agreement. Under Canadian law they lost their Native status once adopted and became, on paper, white.
The decision in the long-running and bitterly fought class action lawsuit paved the way for an assessment of damages. The lawsuit launched eight years ago sought $1.3 billion on behalf of about 16,000 indigenous children in Ontario.
Adopted by a non-aboriginal couple in 1972 at age nine, the lead plaintiff in the Ontario action, Chief Marcia Brown Martel, is a member of the Temagami First Nation near Kirkland Lake, Ontario. She later discovered the Canadian government had declared her original identity dead.
I feel like a great weight has been lifted from my heart. Our voices were finally heard and listened to. Our pain was acknowledged.”
Newly appointed Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said the Trudeau government would “absolutely not” appeal the ruling. She also suggested more than money was at stake.
It is really important that, as we begin these conversations about what is the best way forward for these survivors, we understand that what they are talking about are language and culture and the kinds of things that were taken from them, and they’re things that a court can’t really award. So, it’s really important that we get to the table as quickly as possible.”
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