The multi-million-dollar suit was filed more than three years ago and already appears to mimic the residential schools class-action suit that dragged on in the courts for nine years before aboriginal plaintiffs finally won in 2005.
Marcia Brown, a key plaintiff in this Ontario suit, says she won’t give up. “The law process is slow but we will use this time to get the truth of the Sixties Scoop out to people locally, provincially and internationally,” she said, in a statement to the Star from Kirkland Lake.
An Ojibwa from Beaverhouse First Nation in northeastern Ontario, Brown was among 16,000 children taken by Ontario Children’s Aid agencies and placed in non-aboriginal care. She was removed from her reserve at 4 and sent to a series of foster homes. In one home, she was told to wash off her “dirty brown colour.”
Although the removal of children was called the Sixties Scoop, in Ontario, it actually occurred between 1965 and 1985. The displacement led to adults who say they have lost their own culture.
After the case was filed, Brown, now middle-aged, said that as a child: “I knew that God himself didn’t want me.”
Toronto lawyers Morris Cooper and Jeffery Wilson represent the plaintiffs. They filed their suit against the Attorney General of Canada because the federal government bears constitutional responsibility for First Nations peoples and their culture.
Last October, a year after Superior Court Justice Paul Perell granted conditional certification for their class-action suit, Ottawa appealed it. Perell had certified the suit with the provision the plaintiffs file an amended statement of claim.
But federal lawyers won their appeal and a judgment that called for Brown and fellow plaintiff Robert Commanda to each pay $25,000 in costs. It also stipulated that Perell be excluded as a potential judge in any new motion for a class-action suit.
All Cooper and Wilson have won for now is permission to appeal the Divisional Court ruling in favour of the federal government.
“We were quite shocked at that ruling and we’re pleased we’ve won permission to appeal it,” Cooper said in a telephone interview. “For one thing, to ask Robert and Marcia to pay $25,000 each was shocking. They don’t have any money.”
Shortly after Ottawa overturned Perell’s ruling, Kirk Baert wrote in Canadian Lawyer Magazine: “With respect, the Divisional Court erred in overturning Perell’s conditional certification order . . . . Appropriate case management involves the wide discretion of a motions judge (Perell) to advance the proceedings and to avoid the potentially prohibitive costs and excessive delays associated with certifying a class proceeding.”
Cooper and Wilson have won a battle with permission to appeal the ruling by Divisional Court, but it’s only one step what could be a long road to bring the class-action suit to court.
Cooper doesn’t believe the case will be back in court before the fall.
He notes that other provinces, including B.C., that followed them in filing Sixties Scoop class-action suits against the federal government, are now ahead of them in court proceedings.
Brown is confident she’ll get her day in court. Said Brown: “Although the time this law process takes seems to be lengthened by our government’s lack of accountability . . . the supporters of (the class-action suit) are growing and will continue to grow.”
Source: the star
Author: Linda Diebel