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]

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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