Ottawa wins appeal of ‘Sixties Scoop’ class action lawsuit

Program saw aboriginal children taken from reserves and given to non-aboriginal parents

The federal government has won its appeal of a class action lawsuit on behalf of thousands of aboriginal children in Ontario who were taken from their birth-parents and given to foster parents in Canada and the U.S. The “Sixties Scoop” is the term for the program of adoptions that ran from the 1960s to the 1980s in which aboriginal children were taken from reserves—sometimes without consent—and given over to non-aboriginal parents. But the plaintiffs, now grown up, allege it was a deliberate attempt to assimilate aboriginals and remove them from their cultural origins. There are also complaints of abuse and alienation, the Toronto Star reported Wednesday night.

The federal government appealled an earlier decision of an Ontario Superior Court Justice who had given conditional approval of the case. The condition was that the statement of claim be amended. Lawyers for the federal government successfully argued that the case was invalid since the claim had been “preapproved” without being fully considered by the Superior Court Justice.

But the legal wrangling obfuscates tales of abuse and racism from those who were “scooped” from their birth families. Marcia Brown, one of the lead plaintiffs in the case, was taken from her family when she was 4. Speaking with the Toronto Star, she recalls how her adoptive mother would vigourously scrub her with soap to get the “dirty brown colour” out of her skin. “Canada’s strategy is the get us out of the say,” she said. “It’s an injustice. What I truly feel is that this isn’t a fair system for First Nations people.”

Brown and the lawsuit’s other lead plaintiff, Robert Commanda, have been ordered to pay $25,000 each for costs of the proceeding. Their lawyers have vowed to continue their legal battle, but admit that the ruling is a major setback.

Toronto Star

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