The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Lawsuit claiming loss of cultural identity due to 60's scoop to go ahead

  • Print

TORONTO - A class action lawsuit which claims a loss of cultural identity was suffered by aboriginal children adopted into non-indigenous homes during the so called "60's Scoop" was given the green light to proceed by an Ontario court on Tuesday.

The case — which focuses on a period between the 1960s and the 1980s when thousands of aboriginal children were taken from their homes and placed with non-native families — is being flagged by the plaintiffs' lawyer as a landmark suit against the federal government.

"This is the first case in the Western world where indigenous persons have come forward and said that our culture is as important as our land claims, fishing rights and hunting rights," said Jeffery Wilson.

"Where they were placed, Canada then turned a blind eye to preserving and protecting their culture. So we essentially lost a generation of aboriginal children who feel detached."

The federal Crown has argued that the claim for loss of cultural identity isn't known in law, said Wilson.

But the case's representative plaintiffs — Marcia Brown Martel and Robert Commanda — maintain that their claimed loss of cultural identity has left them feeling they don't belong in aboriginal or mainstream society.

Martel, now the 50-year-old Chief of the Beaverhouse First Nation in northern Ontario's Kirkland Lake region, was adopted when she was nine years old, at which point her aboriginal name was changed.

She only found out years later that a federal register listed her as deceased under her original name.

"The name I use now...it's not my name," she said in angry, measured tones. "How does one lose their name! But I did. My name was taken from me, my very name."

Martel said the relationship she should have had with her original aboriginal community disappeared after she was adopted. She cut ties with her adoptive family after she turned 18.

Commanda, who left his parents' home when he was two year old, said he too lost all bonds with his native culture.

"I don't belong there, and really don't belong out here either," he said. "I hold the federal government responsible for what happened to us after we were apprehended."

The federal ministry of aboriginal affairs was not immediately able to provide comment.

Martel and Commanda first asked for permission to put their case forward as a class action in February 2009, but the federal government successfully appealed certification of the proceedings. A new hearing was ordered in January this year.

On Tuesday, Wilson said the Ontario Superior Court of Justice certified the case after dismissing a Crown motion asking for the suit to be quashed.

The justice presiding over the hearing will provide written reasons for his decision in September after which the case will proceed to trial, barring any appeals by the Crown.

None of the class action lawsuit's claims have been proven in court.

"We've had a lot of procedural wrangling and we know that we have a long way to go in this journey, but at least now we're walking a path in the right direction," said Wilson, adding that there are thought to be 16,000 surviving children of the 60's scoop in Ontario.

"What will be determined is whether or not there is a valid claim cause called loss of culture, and if there is, what are the appropriate damages in respect of that, that harm that was caused."

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Mayor Bowman reacts to Caspian investigation

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Two Canadian geese perch themselves for a perfect view looking at the surroundings from the top of a railway bridge near Lombard Ave and Waterfront Drive in downtown Winnipeg- Standup photo- May 01, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Two Canada geese fly Wednesday afternoon at Oak Hammock Marsh- Front bird is banded for identification- Goose Challenge Day 3- - Apr 30, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Will you watch The Interview?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google