Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Sinful Sixties Scoop

Marcia Brown Martel was removed from her family's home at Beaver House, near Kirkland Lake, when she was 4 -- one of thousands of indigenous children to be taken from their homes in what  is known as the Sixties Scoop. She is part of a class action lawsuit against the federal government, arguing Ottawa robbed them of their cultural identities.

I have been waiting this morning to hear the outcome of a class action law suit involving the Canadian government's program of removing aboriginal children from their homes and placing them with non-aboriginal families. This was different than the cultural genocide of the Residential Schools yet the "Sixties Scoop" was devastating in its own right.

A decision in favour of the plaintiffs has been reached which will affect thousands who were the children cruelly apprehended in the manner, but the person who was the lead plaintiff  is Marcia Brown Martel. I heard her interviewed this morning and it was heartbreaking. In 1967 she was removed from her parents and extended family at the age of four and placed with a non-aboriginal foster family which did not speak her language, the first of several. She was  nicknamed "Sad Sack" because of her downcast demeanour.

Sixties Scoop, Adopt Indian Metis program

She returned to the Beaverhouse First Nation near Kirkland Lake at eighteen, and is now a chief, which is a statement about her strength of character. Today she is celebrating the vindication which this judgement represents. Here is a portion of the CBC News coverage of the outcome:

Canada failed to take reasonable steps to prevent thousands of on-reserve children who were placed with non-Indigenous families from losing their Indigenous heritage during the Sixties Scoop, an Ontario judge ruled Tuesday.The ruling in the long-running and bitterly fought class action paves the way for an assessment of damages the government will now have to pay.In siding with the plaintiffs, Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba found Canada had breached its "duty of care" to the children.

The lawsuit launched eight years ago sought $1.3 billion on behalf of about 16,000 Indigenous children in Ontario who claimed they were harmed by being placed in non-Indigenous homes from 1965 to 1984 under terms of a federal-provincial agreement.The plaintiffs argued — and Belobaba agreed — that Ottawa breached part of the agreement that required consultation with First Nations bands about the child welfare program. Belobaba was scathing in commenting on the government's contention that consultation with the bands would not have made any difference to the children.

As Canadians we can solemnly give thanks for this decision, realizing that it should never have been necessary. As members of a Christian denomination which was part of the overall travesty of  removal through the Residential Schools it can serve as a reminder that the work of Truth and Reconciliation is far from over.


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