Tag Archives: CHILDREN

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.


All Who Died At Residential Schools Should Be Named, Bodies Located: Report

Truth and Reconciliation Commission Chairman Justice Murray Sinclair, right, hands a copy of the commission's main report on Canada's residential school system to then-Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt, centre, as Assembly of First Nations Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde looks on June 2, 2015.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission Chairman Justice Murray Sinclair, right, hands a copy of the commission’s main report on Canada’s residential school system to then-Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt, centre, as Assembly of First Nations Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde looks on June 2, 2015.

By Gloria Galloway | The Globe and Mail

The commission that has spent the past five years trying to learn the truth about abuses of children at the former Indian residential schools says it is time for the names of all of those students who died, and the locations of their burials, to be known.

The final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was made public on Tuesday. Its main findings – including the determination that what happened behind the walls of the church-run schools amounted to cultural genocide – were released last spring along with a list of 94 “calls to action” to address ongoing problems. What is being put forward now is thousands of pages of contextual details, historical data and voices of survivors.

One section is devoted to the commission’s assertion that the students who perished in the institutions must be identified and their remains located.

“As a parent, as a family, when you’ve lost somebody, you need to know everything about that loss that you can get your hands on,” Murray Sinclair, the chair of the commission, said in an interview with The Globe and Mail. “You need to know all that can be disclosed, you need to know why they died, where they died, what they died of, and you need to know as well, where they are buried.”

Justice Sinclair says his commission’s final report is about 2,300,000 words long and presents, in tremendous detail, the post-colonization history of Canada’s indigenous peoples.

More on this story:

Highlights from the report

Witness blanket tells residential school history

“This report is also primarily about residential schools but it has a lot more detailed information to show how residential schools fit into the overall picture of colonialism and oppression – legal, social and political oppression – that went on in Canada from Confederation even to today.”

Among other things, the report discusses the ways child welfare in Canada has failed indigenous people, the disproportionate incarceration of First Nations inmates, and the fact that many Métis survivors of Catholic residential schools are excluded from the settlement that was signed in 2006 with the federal government. And there is also the section on the missing children and the unmarked and untended graves.

Carlie Chase, the executive director of the Legacy of Hope Foundation, which was created to raise awareness about the legacy of the residential schools, is a member of the first generation of her family not to attend one of the residential schools.

“We are always reminded that the survivors today were actually brave children and it is heartbreaking to know that thousands of equally brave children did not survive, that their lives were taken too soon. They died at school,” said Ms. Chase. “So we must be as brave as they were and have the courage to acknowledge the hard truth of their deaths. And that truth is we let them down and we have to do better so it never happens again. So we never have to say there was a death toll at school. For their families to begin their healing, the first part of telling the truth is knowing who those children were.”

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was provided with records of 3,200 students who died at the schools – most from diseases that spread rapidly in crowded dormitories including tuberculosis and influenza, but also by drowning, fires, accidents, suicide and exposure when they tried to run away. But Justice Sinclair believes the real numbers are actually much higher.

“The government claims that archival records were destroyed through floods and through fires. Church records disappeared, they say, for the same reason,” said Justice Sinclair. “So, whatever one thinks of the truthfulness of that, the reality is that those records are not around for us to check.”

But there are ways to get at the information, he said.

It is clear from the data that is available that most of the deaths occurred between 1885 and 1950. Most provinces, during that period, kept records about those who died within their jurisdictions, including their race, their age, their location and their cause of death. If the names of children in those records were matched with the school attendance records, it would be possible to create a more complete list, said Justice Sinclair.

“That is a much bigger task than we were able to accomplish in our period of time and we were around for five years,” he said. So “we have called upon the government to make the funds available for that project to be undertaken and for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation [which recently opened in Winnipeg] to oversee how that will be done.”

The report says that many of the children who died at the schools were buried on the grounds or in nearby plots because the federal government did not want to pay the cost of shipping the body back to the child’s home community. Few of those grave sites were formally recognized by the province or territory, so they have not been maintained.

In addition, schools were often moved and the exact location of the burial sites, in many cases, has been lost over time. The commission recommends that all levels of government, including aboriginal councils, work with school survivors and landowners to find the graves and to erect markers to honour the deceased children.

“Many traditional belief systems say that, without that proper ceremony, the spirit of that person will never get back to where it is that they are supposed to go,” said Justice Sinclair. “So a lot of communities want to be able to conduct those spirit ceremonies for those who died. And they can’t because they don’t know where the body is, they don’t even know whether the person died – at the school or somewhere else.”


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Saskatoon First Nations Elder Prays For Children In Foster Care

Chris Martell, father of Evander Daniels, shakes hands with First Nations elder Walter Linklater at a pipe ceremony. (Dan Zakreski/CBC)

Chris Martell, father of Evander Daniels, shakes hands with First Nations elder Walter Linklater at a pipe ceremony. (Dan Zakreski/CBC)

CBC News Posted: Jun 29, 2015

Pipe ceremony at White Buffalo Lodge

Saskatoon First Nation elder Walter Linklater called on the spirit of Evander Daniels to help other children in foster care.

Daniels died when he was 22-months-old while in foster care.

“I’m asking Evander in the spirit world to intercede for all other foster children on earth,” he said.

Linklater made the request during a pipe ceremony outside the White Buffalo Youth Lodge. About two dozen people gathered in a circle to pray and share their stories.

Among them was Chris Martell – the father of Evander Daniels.

He said the pipe ceremony is special.

“It brings everybody together in a peaceful ceremony for everybody to come for some healing and some prayers,” he said.

“Let everyone in the community share their pain.”

Linklater also prayed for the forest fire victims in the north, the First Nations and Metis children “scooped” by the government in the 1960s, and all foster parents.


Canada Was Killing Indians, Not Cultures

Residential School survivor Lorna Standingready, left, is comforted during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada closing ceremony in Ottawa last week. | Photo: Reuters

Residential School survivor Lorna Standingready, left, is comforted during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada closing ceremony in Ottawa last week. | Photo: Reuters

By: Dr. Pamela D. Palmater | teleSUR, Published 8 June 2015

In Canada’s residential schools, many Indigenous children were beaten, tortured, raped, medically experimented on, and killed.

Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) just released its Executive Summary Report on their inquiry into Indian Residential Schools finding that in Canada’s dealings with Indigenous Nations, it had engaged in a form of genocide and made 94 recommendations for action. The TRC’s mandate came from the class action litigation (and subsequent settlement) by survivors of the residential schools who wanted Canadians to have a true understanding of what happened in those schools. The Summary Report represents over six years of historical research, investigation, and the documentation of the stories of over 6,750 survivors. The final report is expected to be at least six volumes.

Indian residential schools were boarding schools created and designed by the federal government to eliminate the “Indian problem” in Canada – not unlike the Indian boarding schools created by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the United States. The federal government, in partnership with churches of various denominations (primarily Catholic), apprehended Indigenous children from their communities and forced them to live in residential schools under the guise of civilizing them with education. Instead of receiving an education (most never received more than a grade 6 education), most were starved, beaten, tortured, raped, and medically experimented on. In some schools, upwards of 40 percent of Indigenous children never made it out alive. Nationally, the death rate for these children was 1:25 – higher than the 1:26 death rate for WWII enlistees – and that was war.

While some have characterized the Indian problem as the desire by Canada to erase cultural difference, the reality had far more to do with power and economics. The oft-quoted Duncan Campbell Scott, the deputy superintendent of the Department of Indian Affairs, appears to claim that the objective is one of assimilation: “I want to get rid of the Indian problem … Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic.” However, when presented with the alarming death rates in the residential schools by his chief medical officer, Dr. Peter H. Bryce, Scott decided that the deaths of Indian children was in line with departmental objectives which he characterized as “the final solution.”

“Indian children … die at a much higher rate [in residential schools] than in their villages. But this alone does not justify a change in the policy of this Department, which is geared towards a final solution of our Indian problem,” said Scott.

So the central question seems to be what exactly was the Indian problem? Was it truly a desire to rid Indians of their cultures – or was it more about eliminating Indians? Canada’s record, considered on the whole, would seem to suggest that the Indian problem was more about Indians refusing to die off, than maintaining different languages and cultures. Colonial governments didn’t issue bounties on Mi’kmaw scalps because of their culture – they did so because Mi’kmaw people refused to give up their land. Canada didn’t forcibly sterilize Indigenous women and girls without their consent to stop them from speaking their languages – they did it to eliminate the population. By the United Nations definition – that is genocide. It doesn’t matter whether Canada ever agrees that its actions amounted to genocide – very few nation states ever admit to committing acts of genocide.

It doesn’t matter whether Canada ever agrees that its actions amounted to genocide – very few nation states ever admit to committing acts of genocide. What happened in residential schools were crimes back then, just as they are today. It was always against colonial and Canadian law to assault, rape, torture, starve, and murder children. Despite the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the federal government, and church officials all knowing what was happening in those schools, everyone with the power to stop it allowed it to continue. That is why residential schools had grave yards instead of playgrounds.

The Indian problem was always about power and economics – the sovereign Indigenous Nations who occupied and controlled the very territories coveted by early colonial governments refused to die off and therefore stood in the way of unfettered land acquisition, settlement, development, and resource extraction. Despite having suffered many deaths in the waves of disease that came from European contact, scalping bounties and various colonial aggressions, Indigenous peoples survived. Indigenous peoples never gave up their sovereignty or their rights and responsibilities over their territories. Aboriginal rights, treaty rights and the refusal to die off has impeded Canada’s attempts at unfettered settlement and development ever since.

Moving forward, the biggest mistake that could come from this report would be for Canadians to historicize what happened. Indian policy is not a sad chapter in our history – it is a lethal reality for Indigenous people today. Today, there are more Indigenous children in state care than during the residential school era. Nationally, there are 30-40,000 children in care and in some provinces, like Manitoba, Indigenous children represent 90 percent of all kids in care.

Canada’s current policy of purposefully underfunding essential human services on Indian reserves like food, water, sanitation, housing, health and education, leads to the premature deaths of Indigenous peoples by 7-20 years. Indigenous peoples are overrepresented in prisons by 10 times the national rate, and the problem is getting worse. In the last decade, the Indigenous inmate population has steadily increased by more than 56 percent. In the last 30 years, there have been over 1,200 cases of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls and little action from Canada to protect them. None of this is because they practice different cultures, but because they are Indians – impediments to unfettered land access, development, and resource extraction.

RELATED: Canada’s Disappeared Indigenous Women

It’s long past the time that Canada live up to the spirit and intent of the treaties signed with Indigenous Nations (now constitutionally protected) and work towardsa new policy which reflects the promises of mutual respect, mutual benefit and mutual protection. The vision of the treaties was always to share these lands. Despite all the horrors of residential schools, Indigenous Nations kept their treaty promises. It’s time for Canada to stop trying to eliminate Indians and work together in peace. A good start would be to implement the recommendations in the TRC report.

Dr. Pamela D. Palmater is an Associate Professor and Chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University.