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Massive lawsuit filed on behalf of Indigenous children torn from their homes

Indigenous children were subjected to a decades-long federal-government policy that saw them torn from their homes and placed with non-Aboriginal families, a class-action lawsuit claims.

The action, filed in Calgary Court of Queen’s Bench, seeks damages of $500 million for all those taken from their families, plus additional compensation for those who were abused.

The lawsuit focuses on agreements between the federal government and Alberta, B.C. and Saskatchewan, in which children were put into foster or adoptive care in what became known as the “Sixties Scoop.”

“Commencing in or about the early 1960s, Canada implemented two practises involving the class,” the statement of claim reads.

Those practises involved either involuntarily removing children from their Aboriginal homes and putting them up for adoption in non-Indigenous residences, or placing them in group or foster homes, the claim says.

“These children were raised without an understanding of their Aboriginal culture, heritage or traditional ways,” it says of those put up for adoption.

Group and foster home placements were worse, “subjecting many children to horrific attacks, torture and other forms of abuse,” it states.

The beatings were “with a multitude of objects, including . . . bull whips, cattle whips, canes, electric cattle prods, barbed wire fencing and wooden planks.”

Specific incidents noted included the gouging out of one foster child’s eye ball with a metal spoon, electric shock therapy and sexual assaults of all forms, including gang rape, the lawsuit alleges.

The claim, filed by Calgary lawyers William Klym and Brian Meronek, names two members of the Paul Band, near Edmonton, as representative claimants.

Those individuals, a man and woman now in their later 40s, were taken from their homes and put in foster care as toddlers.

The man was physically assaulted on numerous occasions and “restrained by being tied up with coat hangers and then subjected to sexual abuse on a regular basis,” the claim says.

“He cannot maintain employment and he is constantly tormented with the horrors of his past in foster care.”

He was returned to the band at the age of 10.

The woman was in foster care for about 15 years.

During that time, she endured “such horrors” as being in bed with her foster parents while they had sex and being forced to shower with her foster dad.

She was also raped, “treated as a slave labourer,” forced to eat in inhumane ways and insulted with racial slurs.

“As a result of (the) abuse and torture, (she) has attempted suicide several times.

“She has undergone extensive counselling, which has not erased her suicidal ideations.”

The claim says the forced displacement occurred between the early 1960s and early 1990s.

“In a deliberate attempt to eradicate Aboriginal culture, identity, customs and traditional ways . . . Canada established and propagated and/or acquiesced in child and family programs and services which caused and proliferated unspeakable harm to class members,” it says.

“As such, Canada’s actions were malicious, high handed, oppressive and persistent; and warrant punitive, exemplary and aggravated damages.”

Along with damages for all members of the class as well as a settlement process to further compensate victims of “reprehensible abuse,” the lawsuit seeks a formal apology from the federal government for the conduct.

A statement of defence in response to the unproven allegations contained in the claim has not been filed.

KMartin@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @KMartinCourts

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http://calgaryherald.com/news/local-news/massive-lawsuit-filed-on-behalf-of-indigenous-children-torn-from-their-homes