The Thursday hearing in the trial to determine Canada’s liability for harm endured by Sixties Scoop survivors has been cancelled at the last minute at the Crown’s request. On January 30th, the Department of Justice stated it has no new evidence and no intention of cross-examining the plaintiff’s witnesses. The evidence presented by the plaintiff has been accepted and therefore no trial is necessary.
The hearing, scheduled for February 2, was to focus on the question of what advice Indigenous leaders would have given to mitigate harm experienced by Sixties Scoop survivors. The Government has presented no evidence that it fulfilled its duty to consult with Indigenous leaders in implementing child welfare programs on reserve. Further, it has argued that even if Canada had consulted, this would not have mitigated harm suffered by Sixties Scoop survivors.
Affidavits submitted by former Chief, Wilmer Nadjiwon (Chippewas Nawash First Nations) and Howard Jones, former Band Councillor (Chippewas Nawash First Nations) outline a list of recommendations they would have offered to the Government to help protect children’s cultural identities. These included:
Placing the children in close geographic proximity to the bands to facilitate continued cultural connection;
Allowing bands to offer support and cultural education to white foster and adoptive parents; and
Allowing bands to offer children continued cultural interactions in order to expose them to their traditional languages and practices.
The Government of Canada maintains that it cannot be held responsible for the harm suffered by individual Sixties Scoop Survivors. The Crown will submit legal arguments in writing by noon on Thursday. Judge Belobaba is expected to issue his decision on the government’s liability by the end of February; a precise date is expected next week.
“It is clear from the Government’s request that it has found no evidence to dispute the conclusion that consultation would have made a difference for these children. The government had the power to protect their cultural identity and it chose not to. Yet it continues to excuse itself from any responsibility for the harm those children suffered.” –Jeffrey Wilson, lead attorney for the Claimants
“This was my last chance, before I die, to fight for our lost children and to help them get the justice they deserve. Our voices have gone unheard for too long.” –Chief Wilmer Nadjiwon
“The argument that consulting wouldn’t have made a difference was ridiculous from the outset. And I don’t blame the government for not wanting to cross-examine a 95-year-old Chief on such a ludicrous question. But is this about optics or justice? Because if it is about justice, the real question is why the government refuses to right the wrongs of the past. How can we move forward if we cannot heal?” – Marcia Brown Martel, lead claimant and Chief, Beaverhouse First Nation