Commentary Indigenous Law

Reparations for Forced Adoptions in Canada

The Canadian Government announced Friday, October 6, 2017, that it would pay 750 million Canadian dollars in reparations for its forced adoption program of native children.[1]  Part of the reparations is a settlement of an Ontario class action lawsuit that was decided in February after eight years of litigation.[2]  The forced adoption program ran in Ontario from 1965-84 and affected about 16,000 children.[3]  Foreshadowing its holding, the Supreme Court of Ontario’s Justice Edward P. Belobaba recited the case’s facts merely as: “The Sixties Scoop[4] happened and great harm was done.”[5]  The court then ruled in favor of plaintiff’s summary judgment motion and concluded:

[W]hen Canada entered into the [adoption agreement] and over the years of the class period, Canada had a common law duty of care to take reasonable steps to prevent on-reserve Indian children in Ontario, who had been placed in the care of non-aboriginal foster or adoptive parents, from losing their aboriginal identity.  Canada breached this common law duty of care.[6]

In addition to reparations for the adoptees, the settlement will include a substantial sum to establish a foundation “to educate adoptees about their native languages and cultures.”[7]  Chief Marcia Brown Martel of the Beaverhouse First Nation, the named plaintiff in the class action, optimistically commented, “I have great hope that because we’ve reached this plateau, this will never, ever happen in Canada again.”[8]

By: Garrett Adcock

Garrett Adcock is a 3L at the University of New Mexico School of Law.

[1]This agreement disposes of an Ontario class action and some other lawsuits.  Although the extent of the settlement is not immediately clear, the Canadian government is still in negotiations with other plaintiffs in different cases.  Ian Austen, Canada to Pay Millions in Indigenous Lawsuit Over Forced Adoptions, N.Y. Times (Oct. 6, 2017),

[2]Brown v. Canada (Attorney General), 2017 ONSC 251, para. 1 (Can.),

[3] Id. para 14.

[4]The “Sixties Scoop” is the colloquial name given to the adoption program because many of the adoptions, or scoopings, occurred in the sixties.  Austen, supra note 1.

[5]Brown v. Canada (Attorney General), 2017 ONSC 251, para. 4 (Can.).

[6]Id. para. 85.

[7]Austen, supra note 2.

[8]Austen, supra note 2.

By Tribal Law Journal Blog

The Tribal Law Journal was established in fall 1998 for the purpose of promoting indigenous self-determination by facilitating discussion of the internal law of the world’s indigenous nations. The internal law of indigenous nations encompasses traditional law, western law adopted by indigenous nations, and a blend of western and indigenous law. Underscoring this purpose is the recognition that traditional law is a source of law.

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