Brown v. Canada (Attorney General)

2010 ONSC 3095 (2010)

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Brown v. Canada (Attorney General)

Ontario Superior Court of Justice
2010 ONSC 3095 (2010)


In Canada, the 19-year period between 1965 and 1984 was known as the Sixties Scoop. During the Sixties Scoop, welfare authorities enacted a policy of forced assimilation of Indigenous peoples by removing thousands of Indigenous children from their homes and placing them with non-Indigenous foster and adoptive families. Children who were scooped from their families were not allowed to speak their native languages, contact their families, or engage in their families’ cultural practices. As a result, the children suffered from psychological, emotional, and physical disorders, and the effects endured throughout the victims’ lives. Marcia Brown and Roberta Commanda (plaintiffs) were scooped from their Ojibway families, who lived in Ontario. With the support of the Chiefs of Ontario, Brown and Commanda filed suit against the federal government of Canada (defendant), arguing that it abdicated its responsibility of protecting Indigenous peoples. Brown and Commanda sought class certification on behalf of Ontario’s 16,000 victims of the Sixties Scoop, and they sought damages of $50,000 per victim. The federal government of Canada filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Several expert witnesses testified for Brown and Commanda, including a psychologist who testified that the destruction of the children’s cultural identity caused a variety of psychological and physical maladies that sometimes led to suicide. The psychologist further testified that victims’ psychological symptoms improved as the victims regained their cultural identity. In the psychologist’s opinion, a class action would provide a community healing experience for the victims. A psychiatrist testified that during the Sixties Scoop, child-welfare workers believed that assimilation was best for Indigenous children, but instead, assimilation caused a loss of cultural identity that resulted in psychiatric and emotional disorders that caused violence, substance abuse, and emotional isolation.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Perell, J.)

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