’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]

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Judge rules against destruction of residential school records

Confidential2

Aug, 07, 2014. aptn news

WINNIPEG – A Toronto judge has agreed to lock up sensitive residential school student testimony for 15 years.

Justice Paul Perell of the Ontario Superior Court ruled in a decision released yesterday (Aug. 6) that the records will be destroyed after that time period unless survivors individually decide they want theirs saved.

Survivors’ records would be kept at the National Research Centre on Residential Schools at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg.

Perell’s decision comes after two parties in the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSAS) asked him for direction last month. They were: the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which wants all the information saved for a complete record on the legacy of residential schools; and the Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Secretariat (IRSAS), which wants the testimony destroyed.

The judge said survivors can opt in or opt out of the record keeping. He then charged the TRC with collecting survivors’ responses.

The TRC had asked the judge for a 30-year waiting period, while IRSAS wanted survivor testimony destroyed immediately. Its senior adjudicator Dan Shapiro said survivors were guaranteed confidentiality so they would reveal as much information as possible to prove their financial claims for abuse.

Both parties have different mandates under IRSAS: the TRC’s is to gather survivors’ stories publicly and use them for educational and historical purposes, while IRSAS is to process abuse claims under the Independent Assessment Process (IAP).

IRSAS says it has accumulated about 800,000 pieces of information from nearly 38,000 IAP claims. These include IAP forms, transcripts and audio recordings of hearings, decisions, and tens of thousands of supporting medical, education, employment, corrections and other personal records.

Justice Perell is one of the nine supervising judges of the IRSSA.

As APTN Investigates has reported in this story, some survivors favour saving their stories so their suffering is not forgotten. The entire 68-page decision can be read on the website of Ontario lawyer, Julian Falconer.

http://aptn.ca/news/2014/08/07/judge-rules-destruction-residential-school-records/