Judge rules in favour of 60's scoop survivors
- EFN Staff | February 15, 2017
An Ontario judge ruled in favour with the province’s Sixties Scoop survivor’s class-action lawsuit on the morning of February 14th. Ontario Superior Court Judge Edward P. Belobaba says the liability of the federal government was focused from the class members in which the class action will proceed to the damage stages.
Scoop victims asks questions and searches for answers in book on 60's Scoop
“I have found that Canada was obliged under section 2(2) of the 1965 Agreement to consult with each Indian Band before any provincial welfare program, including child welfare services,” says Judge Belobaba in an online court document. “I have found that no such consultations ever took place.”
In a media release, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde responded to the recent court decision and says the Sixties Scoop survivors deserve justice, healing and reconciliation.
“The Sixties Scoop was part of an ongoing attempt by Canada to rob First Nations children of their language, their rights and their identity. Children have the right to speak their language and stay connected to their heritage,” he says. “Today's decision is a step towards reconciliation.”
Peepeekisis schoolteacher Holley Rope says the recent Ontario decision was a landmark decision and worries there may be further legal action from the outcome.
“I do have some reservations about it because there’s always the appeals courts and that kind of makes me nervous that someone would take that extra step to not have reconciliation or an apology happen,” she says.
Rope, 46, is a Sixties Scoop survivor. She was originally from Carry The Kettle Nakoda First Nation but was apprehended when she was two-months old along with her siblings and placed into a non-Indigenous foster home in a small community Abernethy – an hour east of Regina.
Their foster mother was Metis and the foster dad was non-Indigenous and grew up attending church not knowing their Indigenous culture and background. Rope grew up hearing negative stereotypes about her Indigenous people and it wasn’t until she was a teenager that it started to affect her.
“We grew up in a home where my father always had negative thoughts towards First Nations…I come to realize that I am First Nations and I am none of the things that [my foster dad] had the perception of,” she says. “We ended up telling my dad those are real hurtful things and you cannot say those things about our people because those people are my people. He did change his viewpoints because of how it did affect us.”
To this day Rope has never reconnected with her birth family. Her biological father died when she was 10 or 12-years old and her biological mother lives in Calgary – parents that she had never met.
“We grew up thinking the reason we were taken because our parents were alcoholics. I don’t know the story of why we were taken,” she says.
In the 1960s Indigenous children were taken from their families and placed in foster care. As stated in the Canadian Child Welfare Research, “approximately 63% of children in care were Aboriginal in Saskatchewan…the overrepresentation of Aboriginal children within the Saskatchewan child welfare system continues today.”
In June 2015, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall issued a statement that a formal apology will be made to the Sixties Scoop – but still to this day no apology has been made. Rope thinks the apology will come but is unsure when it will be made.
“Our government tends to move slowly on things like this. It seems like we’re always put on hold while other things happen before us,” she says. “I know that an apology needs to be issued and I would want to see that for the survivors that have been greatly affected by this.”
Despite Premier Wall stating there will be no compensation for survivors, Tony Merchant’s law firm will be pursuing Sixties Scoop class-action litigation against the government. According to a statement on the Merchant Law Group website, “the Trudeau Government announced that the government wishes to pursue negotiations towards a national settlement of the 60’s Scoop litigation. Merchant Law Group launched 60’s Scoop class action litigation in 2009 and our law firm is one of the firms in negotiations with the government to pursue a negotiated settlement.”
According to the Toronto Star, the next phase for Ontario will determine the costs in damages the government owes the survivors.