In an Ontario courtroom in February 2017, after a decade of litigation plagued by diversionary and often pointless arguments, Justice Belobaba of the Ontario Superior Court brought some resolution and the promise of solace to the thousands of Indigenous people who, as children, were removed from their families and communities in what is now known as the “Sixties Scoop.”
Sally Susan Mathias Martel, previously known by her adoptive name of Marcia Brown, is a First Nation woman from northeastern Ontario raised through adoption by a non-First Nation family. She asserted that she, and others sharing her experience, had an act of ‘identity genocide” committed against them and that she has suffered as a result.
Justice Belobaba agreed, and in his decision declared that the government failed in its “duty of care” by not protecting the identity of Indigenous children placed through adoption or foster care. In his judgment, he states: The uncontroverted evidence of the plaintiffs’ experts is that the loss of identity left the children fundamentally disoriented with reduced ability to lead healthy and fulfilling lives. The loss… resulted in psychiatric disorders, substance abuse, unemployment, violence and numerous suicides”
The courage and perseverance of Sally Martel and many other Survivors resulted in an acknowledgement of the wrongs committed against them, and it established a fiscal settlement for First Nations Survivors in nonIndigenous care between 1951 and 1991.
Further, through the work of Survivors and dedicated advocates, that settlement was extended by the Federal government to include all qualified Survivors not only from Ontario, where the class action was initiated, but to Survivors from across the country.
At the time of writing, compensation is being disbursed to those who have registered and been deemed qualified under the terms of the Sixties Scoop Settlement Agreement, dated November 2017.
As proposed by the Survivors, and agreed by the government, the settlement also directed that “a foundation be established to enable change and reconciliation, and in particular access to education, healing and wellness, and commemoration activities for communities and individuals.”
It further states that it is intended to “bridge the generations and give meaning to suffering, as well as to provide healing and reconciliation to the whole of Canada, now and for the future.” The settlement further directs that 50-million-dollars initially be granted to a Foundation, that it be governed by a board of no more than ten and not less than six, that it comply with the Canada Not for Profit Corporations Act.