Historical redress for the Sixties Scoop

Posted on October 9, 2017 in Equality Delivery System

TheGlobeandMail.com – Opinion
October 9, 2017.   Globe editorial

The Trudeau government is sometimes accused of favouring symbolism over concrete action, but such criticisms don’t apply to the settlement with victims of the Sixties’ Scoop.

True, the $800-million agreement represents meagre compensation for the trauma suffered by aboriginal children who were ripped from their families. The amount is also less than what a successful Ontario class-action sought.

It is a worthwhile and significant gesture nonetheless, and a tangible attempt at rectifying a deep historical wrong.

As Marcia Brown Martel of the Temagami First Nation and lead plaintiff in the Ontario case said of the reparations, they are a “path forward” to reconciliation.

She also said “the time of stealing children and placing them into something that is not their lifestyle, their culture, gone from their language, those days are coming to a close.”

The last part is important. Thousands of Indigenous kids are currently wards of the child welfare system. Ms. Brown Martel’s view is “they’re not in care. They’re away from their communities.”

Children are removed from dangerous situations for legitimate reasons and as a last resort – this is not a repeat of the odious residential schools program – but Ms. Brown Martel knows whereof she speaks. Born Sally Susan Mathias, she was one of the roughly 20,000 First Nations and Inuit children who were “scooped” between 1965 and 1984. The scars run deep for survivors, and they are right to raise questions about today’s child welfare practices.

Crown-Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett happens to agree that aboriginal child welfare, a shared jurisdiction, needs an overhaul. But that’s been Ottawa’s position for over a year, and progress has been fitful.

Money has been added in the system, and Ms. Bennett says she wants more of it to go to families and children. Ottawa might start by reassessing various legal fights, including the costly appeal of a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling requiring it to process medical requests for on-reserve children within 48 hours.

The government deserves credit for last week’s decision. Now, on to the next steps.


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