’60s Scoop Group Educates Survivors, Pushes Rejection of Federal Settlement Deal

Colleen Cardinal, network coordinator of the National Indigenous Survivors of Child Welfare Network, speaks during a news conference in Ottawa, Feb. 2, 2018. CP/Fred Chartrand

Dozens of people gathered in an Ottawa community centre Monday to learn more about the federal government’s proposed multimillion-dollar settlement for survivors of the ’60s Scoop — and why they should reject it.

The National Indigenous Survivors of Child Welfare Network arranged the information session to scrutinize the $800-million deal, which was announced last October but has yet to receive court approval.

“There are so many things that are wrong with this,” network co-founded Colleen Cardinal told the gathering, made up in part of survivors and supporters.

“It’s really important that this information gets out there, by survivors for survivors,” she said. “The federal government is not going to make sure that every survivor knows what their rights are. Our mission is to get out there and let people know what is happening.”

The ’60s Scoop saw thousands of Indigenous children taken from their homes by the federal government and placed with non-Indigenous adoptive and foster families across the country starting around the 1950s.

The government’s compensation proposal includes $50 million for an Indigenous Healing Foundation.

Cardinal denounced the deal, saying the federal government should have first asked survivors what they wanted.

“They don’t even know how many survivors there are,” Cardinal said, disputing the estimated $20,000 to $50,000 payment per person.

Cardinal also criticized the settlement for excluding survivors who are Metis and non-status Indians.

The office of Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett has said the proposed settlement is a first step and the government is committed to using negotiation to resolve any ongoing litigation.

“We know that there are other claims that remain unresolved, including those of the Metis and non-status,” she said a statement from her office.

An Ontario Superior Court judge will hear arguments in Saskatoon and Toronto in May on whether the proposal should be approved.

If the settlement is allowed to proceed, the network will push for at least 2,000 survivors to opt out in an effort to void the deal.

But the government could still push ahead regardless of how many people say they don’t want to be part of the settlement, lawyer Brian Meronek told the gathering.

There is also no guarantee that provinces won’t revoke income assistance payments if someone becomes ineligible after receiving a settlement payout, said Meronek, who represents a group in Manitoba that opposes the settlement.

Cardinal and other organizers have warned survivors to be wary after hearing reports of some lawyers offering to help navigate the settlement in exchange for exploitative contingency fees.

The network is a survivor-led organization based in Ottawa founded in 2014 that offers information and support for survivors. The group has 300 members, and Cardinal said it reaches thousands more online, through its toll-free number and via presentations and gatherings.

The network is also involved in two research projects, the first by Raven Sinclair at the University of Regina about the experience of the ’60s Scoop survivors, using interviews and archival research.

The second is a geographic information system that maps the diaspora of survivors, including their origins and where they were placed.

The Canadian Press, Feb 19, 2018

[SOURCE]

Reader Submission 

Advertisements

Government to Announce Payout of $800M to Indigenous Victims of ’60s Scoop

Government to announce payout of $800M to Indigenous victims of ’60s Scoop

Sources say the agreement includes a payout of between $25,000 and $50,000 for each claimant.

The federal government has agreed to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to survivors of the ‘60s Scoop for the harm suffered by Indigenous children who were robbed of their cultural identities by being placed with non-native families, The Canadian Press has learned.

The national settlement with an estimated 20,000 victims, to be announced Friday by Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett, is aimed at resolving numerous related lawsuits, most notable among them a successful class action in Ontario.

Confidential details of the agreement include a payout of between $25,000 and $50,000 for each claimant, to a maximum of $750 million, sources said.

In addition, sources familiar with the deal said the government would set aside a further $50 million for a new Indigenous Healing Foundation, a key demand of the representative plaintiff in Ontario, Marcia Brown Martel.

Spokespeople for both Bennett and the plaintiffs would only confirm an announcement was pending Friday, but refused to elaborate.

“The (parties) have agreed to work towards a comprehensive resolution and discussions are in progress,” Bennett’s office said in a statement on Thursday. “As the negotiations are ongoing and confidential, we cannot provide further information at this time.”

The sources said the government has also agreed to pay the plaintiffs’ legal fees — estimated at about $75 million — separately, meaning the full amount of the settlement will go to the victims and the healing centre, to be established in the coming months, sources said.

The settlement would be worth at least $800 million and include Inuit victims, the sources said. The final amount is less than the $1.3 billion Brown Martel had sought for victims of the Ontario Scoop in which at-risk on-reserve Indigenous children were placed in non-Aboriginal homes from 1965 to 1984 under terms of a federal-provincial agreement.

In an unprecedented class action begun in 2009, Brown Martel, chief of the Beaverhouse First Nation, maintained the government had been negligent in protecting her and about 16,000 other on-reserve children from the lasting harm they suffered from being alienated from their heritage.

Brown 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. She later discovered the Canadian government had declared her original identity dead.

Her lawsuit, among some 17 others in Canada, is the only one to have been certified as a class action. Her suit sparked more than eight years of litigation in which the government fought tooth and nail against the claim.

However, in February, Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba sided with Brown Martel, finding the government liable for the harm the ‘60s Scoop caused. Belobaba was firm in rejecting the government’s arguments that the 1960s were different times and that it had acted with good intentions in line with prevailing standards.

While Bennett said at the time she would not appeal the ruling and hoped for a negotiated settlement with all affected Indigenous children, federal lawyers appeared to be trying to get around Belobaba’s ruling. Among other things, they attempted to argue individuals would have to prove damages on a case-by-case basis.

A court hearing to determine damages in the Ontario action, scheduled for three days next week, has been scrapped in light of the negotiated resolution, which took place under Federal Court Judge Michel Shore.

One source said some aspects of the many claims might still have to be settled but called Friday’s announcement a “significant” step toward resolving the ‘60s Scoop issue — part of the Liberal government’s promise under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to make reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous people a priority.

Jeffery Wilson, one of Brown Martel’s lawyers, has previously said the class action was the first anywhere to recognize the importance of a person’s cultural heritage and the individual harm caused when it is lost.

The Canadian Press

[SOURCE]

’60s Scoop Ruling: Canada Failed To Protect Indigenous Children, Judge Rules

Lead plaintiff Marcia Brown Martel (left) is seen outside court in Toronto on Dec. 1, 2016. (Photo: Colin Perkel/CP)

Lead plaintiff Marcia Brown Martel (left) is seen outside court in Toronto on Dec. 1, 2016. (Photo: Colin Perkel/CP)

The Canadian Press | Feb 14, 2017

Canada failed to take reasonable steps to prevent thousands of on-reserve children who were placed with non-native families from losing their indigenous heritage during the ’60s 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-aboriginal 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 Indian bands about the child welfare program.

Belobaba was scathing in commenting on the government’s contention that consultation with the bands wouldn’t have made any difference to the children.

“This is an odd and, frankly, insulting submission,” Belobaba wrote. “Canada appears to be saying that even if the extension of child welfare services to their reserves had been fully explained to the Indian bands and, if each band had been genuinely consulted about their concerns in this regard, that no meaningful advice or ideas would have been forthcoming.”

Belobaba also took issue with the government’s argument that the 1960s were different times and that it acted with good intentions in line with prevailing standards. As a result, the government had tried to argue, it could not have known the harm that might have been done to the children.

“I feel like a great weight has been lifted from my heart.” — Marcia Brown Martel, lead plaintiff

“Canada’s submission misses the point,” Belobaba said. “The issue is not what was known in the 1960s about the harm of trans-racial adoption or the risk of abuse in the foster home.”

The lawsuit sought $1.3 billion on behalf of about 16,000 indigenous children in Ontario who claimed they were harmed by being placed in non-aboriginal homes from 1965 to 1984. (Photo: CP)

The lawsuit sought $1.3 billion on behalf of about 16,000 indigenous children in Ontario who claimed they were harmed by being placed in non-aboriginal homes from 1965 to 1984. (Photo: CP)

Instead, the justice said, there can be “no doubt” that what was well known even then was the importance to First Nations peoples of protecting and preserving their distinctive cultures and traditions, including their concept of the extended family.

The lead plaintiff in the Ontario action, Marcia Brown Martel, 53, is a member of the Temagami First Nation near Kirkland Lake, Ont. She was adopted by a non-aboriginal couple in 1972 at age nine and later discovered the Canadian government had declared her original identity dead.

“I feel like a great weight has been lifted from my heart,” Brown Martel said in a statement. “Our voices were finally heard and listened to. Our pain was acknowledged.”

The government did not immediately comment on the decision.

Belobaba said that while the 1965 agreement, strictly speaking, applied to the Indian bands and not the children, he hoped the government would not now try to make such a “formalistic argument” given the First Nations context.

The Liberal government indicated last week it was going to try to block Belobaba from releasing his ruling after Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett announced an intention to negotiate with ’60s Scoop survivors across the country. The government relented amid outrage by the plaintiffs and critics, who called the attempt to stop the ruling an unprecedented political interference.

Similar legal actions in several provinces other than Ontario are pending but none has been certified.

[SOURCE]

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

Part-Choctaw Girl Taken From Foster Home To Live With Blood Relatives In Utah

1256100_630x354

Part-Choctaw girl taken from Santa Clarita foster home.

By Red Power Media, Staff | Mar 21 2016

A part-Choctaw girl was removed from her foster home under the Indian Child Welfare Act to be sent to live with family in Utah.

The 6-year-old girl named Lexi, was taken by social workers, despite efforts by the foster family and supporters to try to block the move.

On Monday, under the watchful eye of various cell phone cameras, social workers arrived at the home of Rusty and Summer Page in Santa Clarita California, shortly before 3 p.m. to take Lexi, so she can be placed with Choctaw Nation blood relatives in Utah.

The move was taken under the federal Indian Child Welfare Act, which was enacted in the 1970s to help protect the interests of Native American children.

The Pages, who took in Lexi four years ago to live with them had been fighting the move, but last Friday, they lost their appeal to keep her. They say they want to adopt Lexi and say the girl considers them and their three children to be her family.

The Page family has made a plea to let Lexi stay with them at least until they can take the case to the California Supreme Court to file a stay of the removal order, which they planned on doing Monday.

Lexi was supposed to be taken away on Sunday, but Department of Children and Family Services agents postponed the meeting after a large group of supporters crowded the neighborhood to stand against her removal.

Dozens of people remained in a Santa Clarita neighborhood tonight to demonstrate against authorities' plans to take a 6-year-old girl from her foster family's custody and place her with Choctaw Nation blood relatives who live in Utah.

Dozens of people demonstrate against authorities’ plans to take a 6-year-old girl from her foster family’s custody and place her with Choctaw Nation blood relatives who live in Utah.

In a statement, a court appointed attorney for Lexi said, “Her family in Utah have been waiting to receive her for over 3 years, during that time they have traveled to California monthly and she has visited their home as well.

“The injustice here is not that she is leaving California but rather that her foster parents pursued litigation which prevented her from joining her family sooner.”

In another statement, the Choctaw Nation said it wants what is best for Lexi.

“The Choctaw Nation desires the best for this Choctaw child. The tribe’s values of faith, family and culture are what makes our tribal identity so important to us. Therefore we will continue to work to maintain these values and work toward the long-term best interest of this child,” it said.

Tribunal Rules Canada Discriminated Against First Nations Children

Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations and Family Caring Society.

Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations and Family Caring Society.

By Red Power Media, Staff

On-reserve child welfare system receives less funding than elsewhere

Canada’s federal government has discriminated against First Nations children by providing less money for social services on reserves, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has ruled.

CTV News reports, the decision comes nearly nine years after a complaint was filed by the Assembly of First Nations and The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada.

In its ruling Tuesday, the tribunal found that funding formula used by the federal First Nations Child and Family Services Program (FNCFS) and related agreements with the provinces and territories have resulted in the denial of child welfare services on reserves.

The tribunal also found cases in which there was a financial incentive for the government to remove children living on reserves from their parents’ care and place them in foster care, even though that’s not the standard of care off reserves.

The society’s executive director Cindy Blackstock said the federal government’s own documents shows the gap in funding for social services on reserves runs between 22 and 34 per cent.

She noted the gap is “particularly intense” when it comes to services meant to keep families together.

“I can’t even believe we had to take the federal government to court to get them to treat First Nations children fairly,” Blackstock told CTV News Channel shortly after the decision was released. “I’m hoping they’ll use this opportunity to end the inequality for 163,000 children, not only in children’s welfare, but in education, health and basics like water.”

Children take part in a protest on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Feb. 14, 2013 calling for equal education for First Nations.

Children take part in a protest on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Feb. 14, 2013 calling for equal education for First Nations.

According to CBC Newsthe Canadian Human Rights Commission applauded the tribunal’s ruling.

“This historic decision could have a profound impact on how the government of Canada funds other on-reserve programs and services,” wrote Marie-Claude Landry, chief commissioner of the human rights commission.

Long fight

Hearings began in 2013, and the federal government made multiple attempts to have the case thrown out.

“They fought right out of the gate,” Blackstock said.

Before final arguments were heard in October 2014, during which the tribunal heard from 25 witnesses, the federal government had racked up $5.3 million in legal fees.

“Never once were those motions brought because they felt it was in the best interests of the children,” Blackstock said. “It was always to protect the government.”

Following the ruling, UNICEF Canada’s President and CEO David Morley said the tribunal has “set an important precedent” by promoting the right for First Nations children to be free from discrimination.

“We have a long history of inequitable treatment of First Nations children that must be recognized, atoned for and addressed moving forward so they have the same rights, access to services and opportunities as every other Canadian child,” Morley said in a statement.