Category Archives: Native History

Aboriginals Rally At ’60s Scoop Courthouse As Class Action Hearing Begins

Sixties Scoop survivors and supporters gather for a demonstration at a Toronto courthouse on Tuesday, August 23, 2016. Scores of aboriginals from across Ontario rallied in Toronto today ahead of a landmark court hearing on the so-called ’60s Scoop. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michelle Siu

Sixties Scoop survivors and supporters gather for a demonstration at a Toronto courthouse on Tuesday, August 23, 2016. Scores of aboriginals from across Ontario rallied in Toronto today ahead of a landmark court hearing on the so-called ’60s Scoop. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michelle Siu

A $1.3-billion class action argues Canada failed to protect children’s cultural heritage, with devastating consequences

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press, August 23, 2016

TORONTO – Scores of aboriginals from across Ontario rallied Tuesday ahead of a landmark court hearing on whether the Canadian government robbed them of their cultural identities during a two-decade period in which native children were taken from their homes and placed with non-native families.

Some, who travelled for as long as two days to attend, listened as speakers denounced the ’60s Scoop and what they called the “cultural genocide” perpetrated by the government against indigenous people. Speakers called the practice a deliberate effort to assimilate aboriginal children.

“I just want to say to Canada: We will not allow the harm of our children. We need to bring our children home, the ones that were lost, the one’s that were stolen,” lead plaintiff Marcia Brown Martel told the crowd.

“(It’s) such a harm and injustice as a human being to have our children taken from us.”

Martel, a member of the Temagami First Nation near Kirkland Lake, Ont., was one of an estimated 16,000 aboriginal children who ended up in non-native homes. She later discovered the Canadian government had declared her original identity dead.

The ’60s Scoop depended on a federal-provincial arrangement that operated from December 1965 to December 1984. The $1.3-billion class action argues that Canada failed to protect the children’s cultural heritage, with devastating consequences to victims.

“Treaties do not give you permission to take our children,” Regional Chief Isadore Day said.

Following the rally, the crowd marched behind traditional drummers to the nearby courthouse, where they filled the courtroom, to listen as their lawyer, Jeffery Wilson, called on Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba to decide the case, which began in early 2009, based on the evidence he already has.

The unproven claim – it seeks $85,000 for each affected person – alleges the children suffered emotional, psychological and spiritual harm due to the devastating loss of a cultural identity that Canada negligently failed to protect.

The ’60s Scoop, which occurred without any consultation with Indian bands, may have been part of the government’s hidden agenda to “remove the savage Indian from the child,” Wilson told court, but what exactly motivated the “abomination” is not clear.

By robbing the children of their First Nations identities, Wilson said, they were denied the kind of crucial cultural and language experience other Canadians take for granted. The harm is “profoundly ongoing,” he said, even if the events in question are now historical.

“A moral calamity occurred,” Wilson said.

Canada, which has tried on several occasions to have the case thrown out, argues among other things that it was acting in the best interests of the children and within the social norms of the day.

As had been previously agreed, Belobaba adjourned the hearing until Dec. 1, when the federal government will make its case – if it does not decide in the interim to try to negotiate a deal to settle out of court.

Last week, Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said she would like to see that happen, a theme picked up on at the morning rally. Speakers, including New Democrat Charlie Angus, urged the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau to be on the “right side of history” and make good on his promise of a new era in Canadian-aboriginal relations.

Before court ended, Wilson cited a few words in Algonquin which he spelled out.

“Ati kati ci wepik,” he said. “We must never let this happen again.”

In an interview, Glen Hare, deputy grand council chief of the Anishinabek Nation, said he planned on doing his part to ensure it doesn’t happen again. His one regret, he said, is once having signed adoption papers for one of his band’s babies, who he believes was taken abroad.

“I will never sign another adoption, I don’t care who it is. You can lock me up first or shoot me,” Hare said. “Our kids are not for sale, that’s the bottom line.”

http://www.macleans.ca/news/aboriginals-rally-at-60s-scoop-courthouse-as-class-action-hearing-begins/

 

Indigenous People Impacted By Sixties Scoop Finally Getting Day In Court

"I lost everything, including my name. I lost my family. I lost my language. I lost everything about my culture," says Marcia Brown Martel, the representative plaintiff.

“I lost everything, including my name. I lost my family. I lost my language. I lost everything about my culture,” says Marcia Brown Martel, the representative plaintiff.

Ottawa has fought unprecedented class action every step of the way

The Canadian Press, Aug 22, 2016

Thousands of Indigenous people who argue the federal government robbed them of their cultural identities finally get their day in court this week but will have to wait months for Canada to make its case in the unprecedented class action Ottawa has fought every step of the way.

The plaintiffs and supporters from all over Ontario are expected to rally at the courthouse on Tuesday as their lawyers press for summary judgment in the legal battle started in February 2009.

The lawsuit turns on a federal-provincial arrangement — called the Sixties Scoop — in which Ontario child welfare services placed as many as 16,000 Indigenous children with non-native families from December 1965 to December 1984.

Their unproven claim alleges the children suffered a devastating loss of cultural identity that Canada negligently failed to protect. The children, the suit states, suffered emotional, psychological and spiritual harm from the lost connection to their Aboriginal heritage. They want $1.3 billion in various damages — $85,000 for each affected person.

“This is the first case in the western world (about) whether a state government has an obligation to take steps to protect and preserve the cultural identity of its Indigenous people,” said Jeffery Wilson, lawyer for the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment to be heard Tuesday essentially calls on Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba to decide the case based on the evidence the court already has without the need for a full trial.

Canada has previously tried to have the case thrown out as futile. Among other things, Ottawa argues it was acting in the best interests of the children and within the social norms of the day. However, Divisional Court ruled in December 2014 that the plaintiffs deserved a chance to argue the merits of their position at trial.

“It is difficult to see a specific interest that could be of more importance to Aboriginal peoples than each person’s essential connection to their Aboriginal heritage,” the three-justice panel concluded.

In early March, the courts ruled the action should proceed over two weeks, starting Aug. 23. However, much to the chagrin of the plaintiffs, the government late last month asked for a delay, saying it needed more time to come up with experts to counter the claims. The court refused.

‘I lost my family. I lost my language. I lost everything about my culture.’– Marcia Brown Martel

But with buses ordered and courthouse rallies planned for Tuesday, the prospect of more government appeals and delays prompted the plaintiffs to agree to the one-day hearing. In exchange, the government since filed thousands of pages of materials, but has until November to file expert evidence. The hearing is slated to resume for two days on Dec. 1.

Wilson said he hoped the hiatus would allow for a negotiated settlement — a tack the Liberal government now appears to favour. Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said last week she would like to see the case discussed at the table rather than in court.

The Ontario case differs from scoop lawsuits in several other provinces in that it does not take legal issue with the placement of Indian children in non-Aboriginal homes because it was done under court orders in the best interests of the child.

In addition, Ontario was the only province to sign a formal agreement with Ottawa to take over the protection and adoption of First Nations children. The case turns on a single provision the plaintiffs say essentially required the federal government to consult Indian bands and maintain oversight of the children’s welfare.

“I lost everything, including my name. I lost my family. I lost my language. I lost everything about my culture,” Marcia Brown Martel, the representative plaintiff in the Ontario case, told The Canadian Press. “This should never have happened. It was wrong.”

Martel, a member of the Temagami First Nation near Kirkland Lake, Ont., was taken by child welfare officials and adopted by a non-native family as a child. She later discovered the Canadian government had declared her original identity dead.

Last week, five Aboriginal leaders wrote Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to urge his government to settle, and admit the “immense wrong” done the scoop children.

“This moment is an opportunity for Canada to put an ugly legacy behind us,” the letter states.

[SOURCE]

Sisters Torn Apart By Sixties Scoop Reunited Decades Later

Sonya Murray, centre, made it her mission to track down her long-lost sisters Nakuset, left, and Rose Mary, right. (Submitted by Nakuset)

Sonya Murray, centre, made it her mission to track down her long-lost sisters Nakuset, left, and Rose Mary, right. (Submitted by Nakuset)

Women among thousands of First Nations children removed from their families under federal program

CBC News Posted: Jul 04, 2016 / Last Updated: Jul 05, 2016

Sonya Murray and her sister Nakuset hadn’t heard from their youngest sister Rose Mary since she was around five years old.

The two older sisters were taken from their family home in Thompson, Man., one night as part of a federal government program that’s now known as the Sixties Scoop.

Decades after being forced apart along with thousands of other First Nations children and placed in adoptive homes across Canada, the two sisters were reunited with Rose Mary Monday on CBC Montreal’s Daybreak.

Between the 1960s and 1985, the government estimates more than 11,000 Aboriginal children were removed from their families – often without the parents’ consent –  and adopted out under the program.

Nakuset

Nakuset said Rose Mary was ‘the missing piece’ and the sisters now have to make up for lost time. (Radio-Canada)

Others contend that as many as 50,000 children were adopted out under the program.

“One night, there was a knock on the door. Nakuset and I were alone in the house. I kind of opened door… and apparently some police came in and took us away,” Sonya said.

Nakuset and Sonya were kept in the same foster home for a brief period before they were separated.

‘She’s gone… that’s all I ever heard’

Sonya, who was around five years old at the time, was the eldest of the three girls.

“One morning I woke up and I looked in the bed over from me and it was all made up, and [Nakuset] was gone,” she said.

“I asked, ‘Where’s my sister?’ and they just said, ‘She’s gone.’ That’s all I ever heard.”

Nakuset was adopted by a family in Montreal, where she still lives, and Sonya was later returned to live with her mother and stepfather. She now lives near Kenora, Ont.

The emotions of that time are still raw for Nakuset, especially when she considers the loss Sonya felt and the effort she made to find her little sisters.

“Sonya made it her mission to try to find both of us, and she’s really the one that keeps us all together.”

That effort paid off last week, when she received a message from Rose Mary on Facebook last week.

Nakuset teenager

Nakuset says she grew up yearning for her native roots. ‘I so desperately wanted to belong. ‘ (Submitted by Nakuset)

The youngest sister had moved to Vienna, Austria, with her European father when she was around three years old.

“There were no goodbyes,” Sonya said. “She was just gone one day.”

The sisters’ four brothers were also taken from their mother and placed in homes.

‘She was the last missing piece of the puzzle’

The message from Rose Mary, who now lives in Horn, Austria, came as a welcome shock to Sonya.

“I couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t sure. My head was asking if this is real,” Sonya told CBC.

Since then, the three say they’ve been going “crazy” together, and they finally feel complete.

“In Austria, I used to feel lost and I never knew why,” Rose Mary said. “Now, my heart feels wide open and I’ve found new happiness.”

Rose Mary was “the missing piece,” Nakuset added, a feeling that was echoed by Sonya.

“You have a sense of emptiness, there’s always a feeling that you’re not full, you’re not complete,” she said.

“In meeting with my two sisters — now it’s ‘us’, not just me and you, like it was with Nakuset. It’s not just me and you against the world, it’s us against the world. We’re complete. She was the last missing piece of the puzzle.”

Nakuset said she can’t imagine the loneliness her youngest sister felt so far away.

“I think about how hard that must have been for her to be the only Cree in a country, you know, where there’s no one else who looks like her,” she said.

Nakuset said they’re now keen to get to Europe and teach their little little sister all about Cree culture and language. Rose Mary is already planning a visit to Canada next summer.

“We’re trying to do everything we can to make up for lost time,” Nakuset said.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/60s-scoop-reunited-sisters-cbc-1.3663770?cmp=abfb

Better Cultural Training Needed For Foster Parents: Manitoba Children’s Advocate

katy-cfs-teen-in-hotel

WINNIPEG – Manitoba’s children’s advocate says the province’s beleaguered child-welfare system is struggling to meet the needs of children and should provide better cultural training for foster parents.

Darlene MacDonald released a report Wednesday aimed at improving support for indigenous youth, especially girls. Generations of indigenous people were torn from their families though residential schools and forced adoption known as the ’60s Scoop, the report said.

Manitoba can be at the forefront of the healing that must take place, MacDonald suggested.

“Manitoba has an opportunity to become a leader in how meaningful restructuring and root-cause investments can reshape and redress the abuses of the past,” the report says. “The provincial child-welfare system has been ineffective to a large degree at improving outcomes for indigenous children and youth.”

Manitoba has one of the highest apprehension rates in the country and seizes an average of one newborn baby a day. There are just over 10,000 children in care and 90 per cent of them are indigenous.

The report said foster families need to get cultural training and support so they can help their wards explore their own culture.

“This connection to culture is not only a protected right under international law, it is also strongly supported by research that the best outcomes for children in out-of-home care are correlated with strong cultural identity.”

Manitoba also has to look at providing supports closer to home, the report says. That means overhauling foster-care standards and regulations so more homes can be created outside the city. Square footage and occupancy requirements for urban homes should not “continue to be unfairly applied to rural locations.”

“Safe, temporary caregivers exist in communities throughout the province, but many do not qualify as foster-care providers because of the current regulations, which do not reflect an understanding of cultural diversity and community norms,” the report says.

“Safety must never be compromised, but much more can be done to develop safe foster homes around Manitoba so that children and youth in care have more options of staying close to home while services are being delivered to the family.”

The government should also hire more cultural workers and establish a “grandmothers advisory council” to give advice to various departments, especially those who deal with youth. The government should acknowledge the position of influence and wisdom female elders hold in indigenous culture, MacDonald’s report says.

The council, chosen in consultation with the indigenous community, would provide the government with “traditional parenting advice and guidance on the development and delivery of public services that impact children, youth, and families.”

“Our province and our country face an incredible time of opportunity. This is the time where we must honestly acknowledge the disgrace of how Canada’s indigenous people were treated at the hands of those who came here from away.”

The Canadian Press

[SOURCE]

Sask. Government Taking Over Child Welfare Programs From Saskatoon Tribal Council

Social Services Minister Donna Harpauer says the Saskatoon Tribal Council has repeatedly refused the ministry access to files for children it serves on reserve.

Social Services Minister Donna Harpauer says the Saskatoon Tribal Council has repeatedly refused the ministry access to files for children it serves on reserve.

The Canadian Press, June 14, 2016

“We’ve had over 200 kids die within the provincial system. And with the Saskatoon Tribal Council (system), we’ve had none,”

Effective today, the Ministry of Social Services is assuming responsibility for child welfare programs served by the Saskatoon Tribal Council (STC).

The Saskatchewan government is taking back responsibility for the care of children from the Saskatoon Tribal Council Child and Family Services. Social Services Minister Donna Harpauer says the tribal council has repeatedly refused the ministry access to files for children it serves on reserve.

Harpauer says that means the government has no idea how many children are being cared for or what kind of care they’re receiving.

Harpauer said that means the government has no idea how many children are being cared for or what kind of care they’re receiving. She said the STC is not submitting monthly reports on children in its care, which is what 16 other First Nations agencies in Saskatchewan already do.

Harpauer said years of trying to negotiate a new deal between the province and the tribal council have reached an impasse and federal funding expired in March.

She said officials plan to go to the Saskatoon Tribal Council office on Wednesday to get the files and, if that doesn’t work, the province will have to go through the courts, adding this move will affect 50 to 100 children on-reserve.

STC Chief Felix Thomas said that the province has failed to negotiate in good faith since 2008, accusing officials of threatening to withhold money in an effort to dictate terms to the council.

Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Felix Thomas

Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Felix Thomas

Thomas said the STC agency is federally accredited and abides by guidelines for care that meet or exceed provincial ones.

He said he believes Tuesday’s move is part of an effort by the province to horn-in on the jurisdiction of band councils.

“They’re getting pushback on the jurisdictional side and they want to enact legislation in the fall, what I believe, on child and family services and jurisdiction on and off-reserve. And it’s something that certainly our chiefs don’t agree with, that they have jurisdiction on-reserve,” he said.

Thomas said the bands don’t trust the provincial child welfare system, citing hundreds of deaths reported over the years.

“We’ve had over 200 kids die within the provincial system. And with the Saskatoon Tribal Council (system), we’ve had none,” he said.

Thomas said he expected the issue to wind up in the courts if no resolution can be negotiated.

Harpauer said the province’s agreements with the STC which deal with caring for kids off-reserve will still stand, as officials have been able to access those files. She said the provincial takeover only applies to on-reserve care and that the province would work with other First Nations agencies to try and avoid unnecessarily moving kids out of their existing foster homes.

-With files from the Canadian Press