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Former CAS wards seek billions in lawsuit

Thursday July 22, 2010

The Attorney General of Canada is appealing a judge’s decision to allow former wards of the Children’s Aid Society (CAS) to move forward with a class action lawsuit.

Robert Commanda and Marcia Brown-Martel originally launched the suit Feb. 9, 2009.

Commanda, of Dokis First Nation, and Brown-Martel, of Beaverhouse First Nation, were part of an era when Aboriginal youth were apprehended by the Children’s Aid Society in what has now become known as the 60s scoop.

The pair seeks damages for cultural genocide and identity genocide in the range of $85,000 for each claimant. The lawsuit seeks damages totaling $1.36 billion.

In an April 26-28 hearing in Toronto, Justice Paul Perell allowed the case to move forward as a lawsuit but on the condition that amendments be made to the statement of claim.

“We are gathering supporters and continuing with this lawsuit,” said Brown-Martel. “We know what has happened (the apprehensions), but our children don’t know what happened to their parents and grandparents.”

The launch of the lawsuit is meant to help former wards of the Crown to begin their healing journey, said Brown-Martel.

“It’s wonderful to have support and see people come together as community members, as family members. It’s a long process and a lot of people want to be part of it.”

That process may get a little longer as Brown-Martel said they were informed the Attorney General would appeal the judge’s to decision to allow the lawsuit to move forward. But it’s something that was expected.

“We knew whatever the judge would say or the ruling he came up with, there would always be an appeal.”

In the meantime, lawyers Jeffrey Wilson and Morris Cooper, who represent the plaintiffs, are revising the statement of claim.

The amended statement of claim will be filed by the end of July.

Once the statement of claim is amended, the lawyers (for the defendants) have 30 days to file a revised statement of defense.

“The case would then be going to a higher court – the divisional court with a single judge,” Brown-Martel said.

At the hearing in April, Terry Lind, law clerk for the plaintiffs’ lawyers, said there was a great show of support by observers who came in from Fort Frances, Thunder Bay, Timmins, and Toronto.

“We were just thrilled at the turnout in April,” Lind said.

“We had to arrange with the court administrator to accommodate 200 observers.”

Former Crown wards became aware of the class-action lawsuit through band offices, Facebook and word of mouth.

“The estimated claimants is in the 16,000 to 18,000 range,” Lind said.

She added, however, the lawsuit is limited to those children who were apprehended or placed in care within Ontario from Dec. 1, 1965 to January 1985.

The Ontario provincial government was the only province that entered into the 1965 Indian Welfare Agreement, although it was offered to every province.

This is not a case against the Children’s Aid Society, but rather, it is against the Attorney General of Canada, Lind said.

The Attorney General, in it’s original statement of defence, denies allegations made by the claimants.

“The plaintiffs and the proposed class were all, by definition, children whose personal and family circumstances required the intervention of Ontario child welfare authorities to address their needs of protection, support and care,” reads the statement of defence.

It goes on to state: “The claim alleges Canada has variously breached a fiduciary duty owed to the plaintiffs … infringed their Aboriginal rights, breached a duty of care … and violated international human rights conventions. The Attorney General denies the allegations and defends Canada on all of the claims.”

It is expected the divisional court hearing will take place sometime in November in Toronto.


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It is too bad that the

It is too bad that the lawsuit begins in 1965. I was taken away from my parents in 1960 from Kenora to Galt, Ontario Training School then to two foster homes. The first in Chatham then on to Windsor. I was in foster care from 1960 to 1965 and made a crown ward. I had one phone call to my parents during that time. My social worker kept lying to me by saying I would be able to go home in six months. When the time came she kept extending it until 4 and half years had passed. I was finally allowed to go home for Easter at which time I extended my visit by not travelling on the return date. I was arrested by police on the street while walking around town with my sister. I was returned to the training school and eventually back to the foster home. In my last foster home, the man of the house who was a minister tried to molest me but I kept the information to myself. I was sure I would not be believed as I was considered a "bad girl" by them. I was devestated and very lonely. I was unable to speak comfortably with my parents as I lost my Ojibway language. I did not feel I fit in with my family and the loneliness continued. I began my path to alcoholism and abusive relationships. I have since recovered after many counselling sessions and positive support. BUT, it still bothers me that I lost the language and culture of my people. I have tried to regain it back but it is not the same as growing up with it. Thank you for listening.

Hi Debbie: I do not know if

Hi Debbie: I do not know if this will reach you and I do not know if you still have the same e-mail service but can only try. I can relate to much of what you are saying above so please feel free to contact me; who knows, maybe we can lend each other a helping hand.
Look forward to hearing from you.
Fran

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