Indigenous

Mé​tis and non-status First Nations launch Sixties Scoop lawsuit over identity loss

Mé​tis and non-status First Nations across Canada are seeking damages for the alleged harms inflicted on them by the Canadian government during the Sixties Scoop, according to a proposed class action filed on Thursday.

Groups were left out of settlement agreement reached earlier this year

Nora Cummings, who was president of the Saskatchewan Native Women's Association, recruited hundreds of women for a meeting with the minister of Social Services in 1973 to protest adoption ads such as these from the province's Adopt Indian and Mé​tis program. Mé​tis and non-status First Nations across Canada are filing suit against the Canadian government for damages from the Sixties Scoop. (Connie Walker/CBC)

Mé​tis and non-status First Nations across Canada are seeking damages for the alleged harms inflicted on them by the Canadian government during the Sixties Scoop, according to a proposed class action filed on Thursday.

In an untested statement of claim, the survivors of the Scoop argue they were deprived of their identities by being taken from their families and placed with non-Aboriginal families. As a result, they say, they suffered mental, emotional and other harms.

"Aboriginal communities describe the Sixties Scoop as destructive to their culture," the claim in Federal Court asserts. "Canada was careless, reckless, wilfully blind, or deliberately accepting of, or was actively promoting, a policy of cultural assimilation."

A Saskatchewan group called AIM (Adopt Indian and Métis) describes its success at placing children in new homes. 1:42

Among other things, the claim seeks a court declaration that the government breached its duty toward the plaintiffs and seeks unspecified damages.

Garth Myers, lawyer for the plaintiffs, said on Thursday it was unclear how many people might be taken in by the class at this point or what an appropriate level of compensation might be if the claim were to succeed.

Earlier this year, the government struck an $800-million settlement of a similar class action — one involving status First Nations and Inuit who became victims of the Sixties Scoop — in which each victim would receive up to $50,000. Lawyers for the plaintiffs say it's time Canada recognized its actions taken in the Sixties Scoop affected a much larger group of Indigenous people.

In June, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett said the settlement agreement did not address "all of the harm" done by the Sixties Scoop. More work needed to be done with Mé​tis and non-status First Nations, she said.

"They have waited far too long to be recognized and for the harm done to them to be acknowledged," Bennett said. "They should not be made to wait any longer nor suffer through any more court battles."

Bennett had no immediate comment to the proposed action.

The proposed representative plaintiff in the case is Toronto-born Brian Day, 44, a Mé​tis who now lives in Ottawa. According to the claim, Day was raised in accordance with his family's Mé​tis tradition that included hunting until age four, when the Kawartha-Haliburton Children's Aid Society took him from his family and placed him for seven years with a non-Aboriginal family in Sudbury, Ont.

"Mr. Day was told by his non-Aboriginal adopted family that he was not Mé​tis or Indigenous," the claim asserts. "For years, he was told by this family that he was white and Scottish."

Given his upbringing, Day has lost his Mé​tis cultural identity and cannot speak French, the claim states.

"Because of Sixties Scoop, Mr. Day is emotionally, spiritually and culturally disconnected," the claim says. "He feels alienated, anxious, hopeless, sad, frustrated, and resentful."