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Aboriginals rally at ’60s Scoop courthouse as class action hearing begins

A $1.3-billion class action argues Canada failed to protect children’s cultural heritage, with devastating consequences


 
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

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.”


 

Aboriginals rally at ’60s Scoop courthouse as class action hearing begins

  1. What I find amusing, in a sick sorta way, is that white Canada is now paying the price for constant ignorance. When the abuses of the past might have been addressed in some useful way, our various governments polled their re-election chances, and did what white voters said – nothing.

    Procrastination is always a foolish strategy, but in the aboriginal context it was more than that. It was suicidal. It was begging for massive, long-term consequences. Governments and their core supporters actually thought the “problem” would go away if it was ignored. Instead, it got worse. Much, much worse. And it will never go away.

    I don’t care if you hate native people and prefer that they be shot by prairie farmers. They won’t all be shot by prairie farmers, and they won’t lose in court. We are destined to pay far more today, financially and emotionally, than we would have paid when it was obvious that there was a need for deep apology and redress.

    Thank your parents, grandparents and great-grandparents for their “legacy”.

    • Thank our parents, grandparents and great grandparents for their “legacy.”

      Sorry but they are dead and they didn’t make any decisions to “scoop’ any native children, governments and government bureaucrats did. My ancestors were busy working a farm to squeak out a living. Each of them lost several wives to childbirth so most were raising children on there own. They were settlers to Alberta in the late 1890’s; early 1900’s. They worked in the cattle business in small towns. They hired First Nations people to work with them. My dad had a First Nations hired man for many years who lived in town. My dad voted Liberal …for Pierre Trudeau and met him on a radio show in Edmonton. If he was scooping up kids from reserves, the nation wasn’t really made aware. Pierre was pretty full of his own consequence. So much so that he gave protestors on the prairies the bird from his train car. I am not sure how anyone there could have held him accountable for anything. He imposed the war measures act. I think you mistaken voters for people who have some power.

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