Survivors seek reconciliation, while Government seeks further litigation
TORONTO, June 13, 2017—Today, in an astonishing turn of events, and in apparent contradiction to the Government’s own position, Justice Department lawyers issued an argument that blatantly questions the court’s finding of government liability in the Ontario Sixties Scoop Claim.
In February 2017, the Ontario Superior Court found the Government of Canada liable for harm endured by Ontario Sixties Scoop survivors in failing to protect their cultural identities. With the liability decision made, the case moved to the next stage: a decision regarding compensation and relief for survivors.
Concurrent with the court’s decision earlier this year, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett acknowledged that harm was done and expressed a desire to work together to right these historic wrongs, stating “We have no intention of going back to court.”
However, in a memo released today, Crown lawyers outlined a new argument for continued litigation over the question of liability and relief stating: “The summary judgement decision does not establish liability.” Further, the memo states:
- Causation cannot be established on a case-wide basis; and
- An aggregate assessment of damanges is not possible.
The implications of these arguments are significant. “The government is calling for 16,000 additional individual trials to determine if harm was done. This would not only come at an exorberant cost to tax payers, it would block access to justice for thousands of Indigenous Ontarians,” says Jeffery Wilson, lead attorney for the claimants.
Chief Marcia Brown Martel, lead claimant in the case, expressed great dismay and disappointment in the government’s tactics. “It’s as if Canada is saying that the judge’s decision in February meant nothing,” she said. Chief Martel has long expressed the desire to see this case settled out of court to enable the healing process to begin.
Prior to the argument issued by the Crown today, Chief Brown had formally tabled with government a framework for settlement to support reconciliation at the systemic level. While this framework included direct compensation, survivors would also contribute a portion of their relief entitlements to:
- Create a healing foundation that would provide culturally appropriate mental health and wellness support for all Sixties Scoop survivors in Canada and for future generations of Indigenous Canadians impacted by the Scoop.
- Establish a University Chair or scholarship to advance research on the value and protection of the cultural identities of all Canadians
- Commission and install a public art work acknowledging the history of the Sixties Scoop
“What we envisioned was a path forward, the start of a new relationship between survivors and Canada,” said Chief Martel. “What we got was a painful reminder that we are all still standing in the dark. It is time for Canada to turn the light on. ”
Chief Marcia Brown Martel, lead claimant in the Ontario Sixties Scoop Claim, expresses great dismay and disappointment in the Government of Canada’s tactics delaying any movement towards a settlement that would support reconciliation at the systemic level.