The Ontario Superior Court has dismissed an appeal by the Canadian government to strike a landmark case on the deprivation of cultural identity — also known as the “Sixties Scoop" of First Nations children.
The case can now proceed as a class action lawsuit.
“For the first time in Western law, a court has recognized our First Nations’ connection to our culture as a whole, and not as specific Aboriginal land, fishing or hunting interests, and that our peoples’ connection to our culture is an interest that cannot be disputed,” said Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Deputy Grand Chief Goyce Kakegamic.
Between 1965 and 1985 an estimated 16,000 Aboriginal children in Ontario, including members of NAN First Nations, were removed from their homes and placed in other — mostly non-native — communities, NAN said in a press release issued Wednesday.
“An entire generation lost its Aboriginal identity and culture through what is known as the “Sixties Scoop,” the release stated.
“This is the first time a court in the Western world has given this importance to cultural identity and granted permission for a legal case to proceed where a people were robbed of their cultural identity.”
Marcia Brown Martel — now Chief of Beaverhouse First Nation — and Robert Commanda launched a lawsuit in February 2009 against the Attorney General of Canada under the Class Proceedings Act.
Prior to Tuesday’s decision, two judges had ruled in favour of the class action proceeding, allowing Chief Brown to be a representative plaintiff for Sixties Scoop survivors in Ontario.
“It has been a difficult path to litigation for these courageous plaintiffs and we will continue to support their efforts to hold the federal government accountable for transgressions that have permanently scarred countless First Nations,” Kakegamic said.
“It has taken a long time, but it is a beginning.”
So far there has been no comment from the federal government on the ruling.
The ruling follows: