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This article was published 10/8/2017 (900 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Lawyers pushing ahead with a proposed class-action lawsuit on behalf of Manitoba ’60s Scoop survivors say no victims will be left behind in their quest for compensation from the federal government.
A wording change in an amended statement of claim opens the lawsuit up to all Indigenous children — not just those who were living on-reserve at the time — who were taken from their families and placed for adoption in non-Indigenous homes.
A previous version of the $200-million lawsuit specified that it was meant to represent "all Indian, non-status Indian and/or Métis" children who were living on-reserve in Manitoba on or after Sept. 2, 1966, when they were adopted into non-Indigenous homes. But that wording would have excluded children, including Métis peoples, who lived off reserve when they were put up for adoption. The amended statement of claim says it will represent "all Indian, non-status Indian, and/or Métis children who were taken from within the boundaries of reserves in Manitoba, or outside thereof, and were placed in the care of non-Aboriginal foster or adoptive parents who did not raise the children in accordance with the Aboriginal person’s customs, traditions, and practices."
The more inclusive wording was filed as part of the amended statement of claim last October, after a ruling from Court of Queen’s Bench Justice James Edmond.
The judge took a "less is more" approach and decided only one class-action ’60s Scoop lawsuit could go ahead in Manitoba. He dismissed one of two competing lawsuits that was vying for class-action status, favouring the one that made a narrower claim for financial damages against the federal government.
But he ordered that the successful, much narrower claim from the law firms Koskie Minsky and Troniak be amended because it "ought to include as many Aboriginal persons affected by the ’60s scoop as possible."
Celeste Poltak, a Toronto-based partner at Koskie Minsky, said the expanded definition of ’60s Scoop survivors, which includes both on- and off-reserve Indigenous children, must be considered by Justice Edmond before he decides whether to certify the class-action lawsuit.
"It matters because regardless of whether or not someone was taken from reserve, or regardless of their status, there’s a certain degree of Aboriginal custom and tradition and practice that were stripped away from people, regardless of where they came from," she said.
Manitoba’s Court of Appeal agreed with Edmond’s decision to go ahead with the proposed class-action lawsuit. In its July decision, the appeal court noted it was "regrettable" that the lawsuit appeared to exclude some ’60s Scoop survivors based on the original wording in the claim.
The amended version has not been made public until now.
The next step in the long legal process is a three-day certification hearing in December. The merits of the case won’t be decided unless the class-action lawsuit is certified, meaning there’s still a long legal road ahead for the thousands of Manitoban ’60s Scoop survivors who could be eligible for compensation under the lawsuit.
Among them is Camperville resident David Chartrand, a 54-year-old ’60s Scoop survivor who has been fighting for the past 20 years to have his case recognized in court.
He was one of the plaintiffs named in the competing lawsuit brought forward by Merchant Law Group, which now has been dismissed by the court. Chartrand told the Free Press Wednesday he’s pleased to hear he and others who lived off-reserve before they were "scooped up" will be included in this proposed class action.
"For me, it’s not about the money, because you’re never going to give me enough money for what you did to me," he said. What’s more important to him is getting an opportunity to tell his story in court and explain the damage caused by federal government policies that directed the mass adoptions of Indigenous children.
"I want to tell the world what happened," said Chartrand, who was taken from his mother when he was about six years old. He spent the next 16 years with an abusive adoptive father in Minnesota, and since returning to Manitoba, he’s been a vocal advocate for fellow ’60s Scoop survivors.
Across Canada between the 1960s and 1990s, more than 20,000 Indigenous children were taken from their families by children’s aid workers acting on federal government policies and were adopted into non-Indigenous homes. Between 5,000 and 10,000 of those children might have been from Manitoba. Many of them were sent to live with families in the U.S.
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Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.