An Ontario judge presiding over a class-action lawsuit is now considering payments for indigenous people placed in non-aboriginal homes.
Starting in the 1960s until 1984, child-welfare authorities placed thousands of on-reserve indigenous children in non-aboriginal homes. Victims blamed the loss of their cultural identity on federal government negligence.
On Tuesday, Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba agreed, saying the federal government failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the children from losing their indigenous heritage.
Arguably, the Ontario court case sets a precedent for cases in other provinces, including Saskatchewan.
“Absolutely. We’re going ahead with our own lawsuit. Manitoba is, and B.C. is. It’s a precedent setting case,” said Dr. Raven Sinclair, who is a victim of the 60’s scoop in Saskatchewan.
But it’s still very early days in the legal process in Saskatchewan.
At this point, Sinclair said, it’s not yet clear exactly how many people in this province were effected by the 60’s scoop.
“Currently, I’m undertaking research to look at some of the historical issues. So we’re just in the process of collecting that information,” Sinclair added.
Sinclair also noted, to this day, the Saskatchewan government has still not apologized for what happened, but that doesn’t surprise her.
“I think that had to do with the potential legal implications of an apology. Because generally we don’t apologize unless we’ve done something wrong, right?” Sinclair added.
He says the federal government owed it to the children to help protect their indigenous identities.
Ruling could affect ongoing lawsuits
Regina-based Lawyer Tony Merchant said while this is a victory, there is some defeats in the ruling.
“There is nothing in this judgment that says the federal government has to pay anything. The judge goes on to say the next question would be some determination of damages,” Merchant said.
He said this ruling doesn’t directly affect people in Saskatchewan but Merchant Law has launched cases all across Canada.
“In Saskatchewan, we’ve also sued the Saskatchewan government because social services picked up the children.”
According to Merchant, this decision will affect other lawsuits going on across the country but that it “helps a bit but it hurts more than it helps.”
— With files from The Canadian Press, Chris Carr, David Kirton and Britton Gray