‘Great harm was done’

Judge sides with sur­vivors in ground­break­ing de­ci­sion

Metro Canada (Vancouver) - - CANADA -

Af­ter try­ing for eight years to have a class-ac­tion law­suit brought by On­tario sur­vivors of the ’60s Scoop thrown out, the federal gov­ern­ment was dealt a blow Tues­day in a sting­ing rul­ing by a Toronto judge who found in the sur­vivors’ favour.

The gov­ern­ment had a “com­mon law duty of care” to take rea­son­able steps to pre­vent on­re­serve chil­dren from los­ing their in­dige­nous iden­tity af­ter they were re­moved and placed in non­indige­nous care be­tween 1965 and 1984, con­cluded Su­pe­rior Court Jus­tice Ed­ward Belob­aba.

“Canada breached this com­mon law duty of care,” the judge said.

It’s be­lieved there are at least 16,000 sur­vivors of the ’60s Scoop in On­tario, who have spo­ken of psy­cho­log­i­cal harm as a re­sult of the loss of their cul­tural iden­tity, which has af­fected them through­out adult­hood.

“The Six­ties Scoop hap­pened and great harm was done,” Belob­aba wrote in his 20-page rul­ing.

“The un­con­tro­verted ev­i­dence of the plain­tiff’s ex­perts is that the loss of their abo­rig­i­nal iden­tity left the chil­dren fun­da­men­tally dis­ori­ented, with a re­duced abil­ity to lead healthy and ful­fill­ing lives. The loss of abo­rig­i­nal iden­tity re­sulted in psy­chi­atric disor­ders, sub­stance abuse, un­em­ploy­ment, vi­o­lence and nu­mer­ous sui­cides.”

The vic­tory — the first for a ’60s Scoop law­suit in Canada — af­ter years of le­gal wran­gling was hailed by the plain­tiffs and in­dige­nous rights groups, who ac­knowl­edged this is not the end of the case.

The lead plain­tiff, Mar­cia Brown Mar­tel, 53, a mem­ber of the Temagami First Na­tion near Kirk­land Lake, Ont., was adopted by a non-abo­rig­i­nal cou­ple in 1972 at age nine. She 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. “Our pain was ac­knowl­edged.”

THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Beaver­house First Na­tion Chief Mar­cia Brown Mar­tel is the lead plain­tiff in an On­tario class-ac­tion suit. A judge ruled Tues­day in favour of 16,000 in­dige­nous On­tar­i­ans who were re­moved from their com­mu­ni­ties in the Six­ties Scoop.

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