By Christine Smith McFarlane
TORONTO—After seven years of delays by the federal government, Sixties Scoop Survivors finally got their day in Court on August 23, 2016. Toronto Community Elder Pauline Shirt, opened up the day, along with roughly 200 people rallied outside of Osgoode Hall in downtown Toronto before heading down to the courthouse.
The Sixties Scoop refers to a period in time from the 1960’s until the early 1980’s in which 16,000 First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children were taken from their families and placed into non-First Nation foster or adoptive homes by the Government of Canada. This practice often occurred without the children’s parents consent and the homes in which they were placed in caused many, if not most children, to lose their culture, traditions, and practices. Some even experienced extreme and overt racism, as well as psychological and physical abuse.
Beaver House First Nation’s Chief Marcia Brown Martel, the representative plaintiff in the Ontario case, stated at the rally that “today is a plateau to say that we within Canada—the Indigenous people of Canada—that we as the public within Canada can say to the Canadian government we will not, we will not, as a people allow the continued harm of our children, their identity, their traditional ways, their way of thinking, their culture. And their language.”
“Those of us who are here have a responsibility, and you have taken it up to say to Canada: we will not alllow the harm of our children, we need to bring our children home, the ones that were lost, the ones that were stolen, the ones that were taken, they need to come home!” added Brown Martel.
The claim alleges that the Government had an obligation to ensure that these children would grow up learning their culture; however, failed to do so, and now suffer the loss of cultural identity, amongst other forms of suffering. The Government claims no wrongdoing and have appealed this case at every step of the way which has required the Sixties Scoop case to be certified as a class action lawsuit on two separate occasions. Canada tried to further delay the case by requesting an adjournment. This was denied on July 22, 2016.
Buses came from Ottawa, St. Catherines, Hamilton, Mitagami First Nation, Nishnaabe Aski Nation, Temagami, Attawapiskat, Wikiwemikong, Curve Lake First Nation, Beaver House First Nation, and many other places to show their support for the Sixties Scoop case today. Some of the leaders in attendance included Chief Isadore Day, Anishinabek Nations Deputy Grand Council Chief Glen Hare, Chief Stacy Laforme, NDP MP for Timmins and James Bay Charlie Angus.
The hearing is slated to resume for two days starting December 1, 2016, unless if a settlement between the Sixties Scoop Survivors and the federal government is reached before the scheduled date.