TORONTO – Metis and non-status Indians across Canada are seeking damages for the alleged harms inflicted on them by the Canadian government during the ’60s 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 ’60s 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.”
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 on-reserve Indigenous people who became victims of the ’60s 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 ’60s 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 ’60s Scoop. More work needed to be done with Metis and non-status peoples, she said.
“They have waited far too long to be recognized and for the harm done to them to be acknowledged,” Bennett said of the on-reserve victims. “They should not be made to wait any longer nor suffer through any more court battles.”
Bennett had no immediate comment to the lawsuit but a spokesman said the government’s position had not changed.
“The government remains committed to working with plaintiffs, their counsel, provinces, territories and leadership to resolve outstanding claims with other Indigenous people affected by the ’60s Scoop, including Metis and non-status Indians,” James Fitz-Morris said in an email.
The proposed representative plaintiff in the new case is Toronto-born Brian Day, 44, a Metis who now lives in Ottawa. According to the claim, Day was raised in accordance with his family’s Metis 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 Metis 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 Metis cultural identity and cannot speak French, the claim states.
“Because of ’60s Scoop, Mr. Day is emotionally, spiritually and culturally disconnected,” the claim says. “He feels alienated, anxious, hopeless, sad, frustrated, and resentful.”