MANITOULIN—The Grand Council Chief of the Union of Ontario Indians (UOI) is hopeful that actual action will take place and a resolution comes through with the announcement last week by the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, that the federal government is launching negotiations towards a national resolution to Sixties Scoop legislation.
“Here’s my perspective on it,” said Grand Council Chief Madahbee, last Friday. “One is that this is an informed decision to people who launched claim, in the legal advice they have been given, that this is the preferred route to go. Or it may be that a judge will look at this and say one side has a weak case on one side of the issue, or this is the governments way of avoid a court case that they know they are going to lose.”
“Settlement negotiations can drag on a long time, or one party basically can get low-balled,”said Grand Council Chief Madahbee. “Maybe it is that I’ve seen too many examples of the government looking or announcing they are going to do something good, but it doesn’t work out that way. For me it means that red flags have to be raised. To me this is a little suspicious, that the government is recommending negotiations now—in light of the fact the government is being taken to court on this issue.”
Grand Council Chief Madahbee said this issue could be similar to the 1990 Manitoulin Island land claim. “In the 1990 Manitoulin Island land claim we (First Nations) went to the examination and discussion stage, and the judge indicated we had a strong case. All of the sudden the government wanted to negotiate. Now it is 2017 and 1990 land claim is still a big unresolved issue. The Harris government violated the terms of the negotiations. It is a mess and there is still a lot that has to be resolved.”
“When the Mike Harris government voided taxation provisions we agreed and he broke the deal,” continued Grand Council Chief Madahbee. “This has been a problem since for not only First Nations but municipalities as well.”
On February 1 the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs announced, “I am pleased to announce an important step in Canada’s journey of reconciliation with indigenous peoples. Our government will launch negotiations towards a national resolution to Sixties Scoop litigation.”
“The Sixties Scoop is a dark and painful chapter in Canada’s history. Beginning in the 1960s, indigenous children were removed from their homes by child welfare authorities and many were placed in foster care or adopted out to non-indigenous families,” said Minister Bennett. “A number of Sixties Scoop class actions are now underway.”’
“Over the last several months, I have been working with my officials and cabinet colleagues to get this process in place to resolve these claims in a compassionate, respectful and fair manner, as a way forward towards reconciliation and healing. Several parties have already expressed their desire to participate in the discussions, and we hope all parties will participate in the efforts towards negotiating an agreement-in-principle to resolve Sixties Scoop litigation.”
“Negotiation, rather than litigation, is our government’s preferred route to settle differences, and right historical wrongs. This commitment is demonstrated by the settlement of the Anderson class actions and the recent appointment of Tom Isaac to lead the exploratory discussions in the Gottfriedson class action,” continued Ms. Bennett.
“As the prime minister has said, no relationship is more important to him and to Canada than the one with indigenous peoples,” said Minister Bennett. “We are deeply committed to advancing reconciliation and renewing, on a nation-to-nation, Crown-to-Inuit and government-to-government basis, the relationship with indigenous peoples based on recognition of rights, respect, cooperation and partnership.”
“As we renew this most important relationship, we are committed to furthering the vital work of reconciliation as outlined in the ‘Calls to Action’ of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which contained specific references to the claims of individuals left out of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. This work of reconciliation is not just for government, but for all Canadians. The Government of Canada can confirm that as of this month, progress is underway on 41 of the Calls to Action that are under federal purview. As work continues, this number will continue to grow.”
“True and lasting reconciliation cannot be achieved through any one single settlement. The federal government’s relationship with Indigenous people has been filled with too much tragedy, especially related to the treatment of children. We look forward to working together to arrive at a constructive, national resolution to the painful legacy of the Sixties Scoop, outside the court process,” added Ms. Bennett.
Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day says that the federal government’s willingness to negotiate an end to the Sixties Scoop claim is a positive sign. However, they must acknowledge to the survivors and to Canada that they have a duty to protect the cultural identity of indigenous children.