Survivors of the Sixties Scoop living in Ottawa are "ecstatic" that an Ontario judge has ruled in favour of other survivors in a bitterly fought class-action lawsuit against the federal government, but warn there's still "healing left to do."
The landmark decision came down in Toronto on Tuesday, ruling that Canada failed to take reasonable steps to prevent thousands of Indigenous children who were placed with non-Indigenous families from losing their heritage during what's known as the Sixties Scoop.
"My stomach is just full of butterflies. I'm ecstatic for the adoptees in Ontario," said Colleen Cardinal, who was watching the news closely from Ottawa.
"I actually am surprised. I really am surprised with the judge's ruling, but so happy for the adoptees."
'My stomach is just full of butterflies. I'm ecstatic for the adoptees in Ontario.' - Colleen Cardinal
Cardinal, originally from Saddle Lake Cree Nation in Alberta, was taken from her family by child welfare officials when she was two. She was adopted and raised by a non-Indigenous family in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.
She's not part of the $1.3 billion class action lawsuit launched eight years ago — it only applies to about 16,000 people apprehended from communities in Ontario alone — but she sees this as a precedent-setting victory for the thousands more Indigenous people across Canada who were taken from their families beginning in the 1960s and raised far from their homes and cultures.
"I think the rest of the country has been waiting for this class action to be resolved, and I'm pretty sure that the rest will follow suit," Cardinal said.
Elaine Kicknosway agrees. She and Cardinal are part of a tight-knit group of Sixties Scoop survivors in Ottawa that meets regularly to support each other through healing ceremonies and larger community gatherings.
"I'm feeling like a weight has been lifted," said Kicknosway, who was taken from her family in Saskatchewan and raised in Ottawa.
She's also excluded from this particular ruling. She believes that although this is a big victory for her "brothers and sisters," it's crucial to support all survivors now more than ever.
"It's also taking care of each other, right? Like if we're being triggered. Because all of this brings us back to our stuff — either memory of the day we were taken, or our experience in foster care, those different triggered spaces. So I'd really encourage people to reach out and share with one another," she said.
The Ottawa Sixties Scoop community is organizing a third national gathering for survivors in the fall. They're expecting dozens of people, many of whom will be on an emotional journey as a result of this ruling.
"We know from the residential school survivors that it's not a happy ending for everybody. So we have to still continue to do the work we're doing," said Cardinal.
"We still need our gatherings. We still need our healing. And we still need our cultural support. So this is a monetary victory, but in the long run, we have a lot of healing left to do."