'Penalty that hurts' prosecutor doesn't spell sunny ways in Sixties Scoop suit, John Cutfeet says

The Prime Minister's commitment to reconciliation is put in question by Canada's choice of lawyers for the Sixties Scoop class action, according to a former band councillor from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug in northern Ontario.

Owen Young argued Indigenous culture is undefined and Canada had no legal obligation to protect it

"You begin to see what sunny ways really mean when you have someone who totally wants to disregard Aboriginal culture, representing the government," says John Cutfeet.

The Prime Minister's commitment to reconciliation is put in question by Canada's choice of lawyers for the Sixties Scoop class action, according to a former band councillor from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (K.I.) in northern Ontario.

John Cutfeet was among the leaders from his First Nation who were embroiled in a mining dispute back in 2008. That's when Owen Young, then a prosecutor for Ontario, encouraged the judge to impose "a financial penalty that hurts" on the community to avoid leaders becoming martyrs by going to jail for their cause.

Now, Young is the lawyer defending Canada in a class action suit on the Sixties Scoop.

The wounds from Young's arguments in court in 2008 are still fresh in Cutfeet's mind.

"He was trying to promote the agenda that Indigenous rights did not exist," Cutfeet said. Six K.I. leaders did serve time in jail for their resistance to mineral exploration on their traditional lands.

Now, Cutfeet is questioning Canada's use of Young in the Sixties Scoop litigation.

"It certainly doesn't contribute to a good relationship or a new relationship with our people when you have [lawyers] out there thinking back to old colonial thinking," he said.

Young argued in court last week that the concept of Indigenous culture is too nebulous to require a legal obligation on Canada to protect it when Indigenous children were apprehended and placed with non-Indigenous families.

"You begin to see what [Trudeau's] 'sunny ways' really mean when you have someone who totally wants to disregard Aboriginal culture, representing the government, especially against children, children who were stolen from their families," Cutfeet said of Young's remarks.

Cutfeet said he understands the adversarial role that lawyers are put in through the court system and said that means the Liberal's must re-think both their choice of lawyers and which cases to fight, if they're honest in their desire for reconciliation.

"There was a lot of hope generated by [Trudeau saying] 'sunny ways, my friends', but these sort of actions point to the darker era that we've just come through," he said.