OTTAWA — In what lawyers are calling a landmark decision, the Federal Court of Canada has certified a class action against the government on behalf of off-reserve Indigenous children who were taken from their families and put into care.
Those affected include status and non-status Indians, Inuit and Métis youngsters and their families.
The class period – dubbed the Millenium Scoop by the Vancouver law firm representing the plaintiffs – will be Jan. 1, 1992 to Dec. 31, 2019.
Lawyer Angela Bespflug called Monday's decision "historic," saying it signals an important shift in the law.
"Despite Canada's constitutional responsibility for all Indigenous people, Canada has repeatedly failed to take steps to protect the Indigenous identity of off-reserve children who were put into care," Bespflug said.
Under a $40 billion Agreement in Principle finalized with First Nations on Dec. 31, 2021, the federal government will compensate young people harmed by the child welfare system which the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled in 2016 to be discriminatory. The government will also reform the on-reserve child welfare system that took children away from their communities for decades.
Bespflug said it is fundamentally wrong that Canada has agreed to compensate these children, "while leaving off-reserve children out in the cold."
Indigenous children represent about eight per cent of Canada's children but make up around 50 per cent of children in government care.
Lawyers say the vast majority of Indigenous children placed into government care are off-reserve children.
The class action seeks assorted damages, restitution and recovery of certain costs for children and their families, and alleges that government actions violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms while demonstrating systemic negligence.
None of the claims has been proven in court.