A Métis man who was taken from his teenage mother as an infant and placed in a non-Indigenous foster family is suing the federal and Saskatchewan governments for excluding Métis people from a proposed settlement with victims of what is known as the Sixties Scoop.
The suit comes after federal, provincial and territorial ministers met for two days with Indigenous leaders but failed to agree Friday on a six-point plan proposed by Ottawa for addressing the gross over-representation of First Nation, Inuit and Métis children in foster care in Canada.
Robert Doucette will appear before a judge of the Saskatchewan Court of Queen's Bench in Saskatoon on Monday to argue that the federal and provincial governments breached their fiduciary and common-law duties to the Métis when Carolyn Bennett, the federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, announced a proposed settlement with First Nation and Inuit Sixties Scoop survivors in October.
"I just believe it's time now that the federal and provincial government own up to what they've done to Métis people," Mr. Doucette, a former head of the Métis Nation of Saskatchewan, said in an interview on Friday.
Ottawa has agreed to settle a number of outstanding class-action suits by offering up to $50,000 each to those who lost their Indigenous culture and identity as a result of being removed from their homes and communities when they were children in the 1960s, 70s and 80s – a process that is known as the Sixties Scoop. That deal has yet to be approved by the court.
The federal government argues that the Métis were not recognized during those decades as being holders of Indigenous rights, which means Ottawa had no role in placing Métis children into foster care and cannot, therefore, bear full responsibility for the harm that befell them. It wants the provinces to also be part of the settlements with Métis survivors.
But Mr. Doucette will argue that the Supreme Court said in 2016 that the Métis fall under federal jurisdiction and that means, he said, it is up to the federal government to provide redress.
Mr. Doucette was born to a 15-year-old mother in Buffalo Narrows in northern Saskatchewan and was placed in a non-Indigenous family in Prince Albert in 1962 when he was about seven months old.
"I was told that, when they were taking me away, my mishoom [nimishoomis is grandfather in Cree] was chasing the car and was swearing at the car and throwing rocks and telling it to stop taking his grandson," Mr. Doucette said. "And all through his life, he would say to my mother in Cree, 'Go and find my little man, I want to see him before I die.'"
Mr. Doucette was reunited with his mother at the age of 20, two years after his grandfather passed away.
Jane Philpott, the federal Minister of Indigenous Services, and Dr. Bennett met with their provincial and territorial counterparts this week to discuss ways to reduce the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in foster care. The latest survey from Statistics Canada found that, while less than 8 per cent of all Canadian children aged 4 and under are Indigenous, they account for 51.2 per cent of all preschoolers in care.
Dr. Philpott has promised there will be more money in the coming budget to address the problem. And there was broad consensus among the meeting participants that more must be done to keep children in their homes and communities.
But the parties did not agree to a six-point plan drawn up by the federal government that proposed mostly non-specific measures including moving to a more flexible funding model and helping Indigenous leaders to advance a culturally appropriate reform of child and family services.
Provincial ministers explained that they generally support what Ottawa wants to do but could not sign anything without first consulting the Indigenous people in their own jurisdictions.
David Chartrand, the vice-president of the Métis National Council who was among the Indigenous leaders to attend the meeting, told reporters that the Métis have been very clear that they want to take care of their own children.
There was a time that the provinces believed they could find the best parents for Métis children whose families were experiencing difficulties, Mr. Chartrand said. "The best parents for our children are our own parents and our own extended families."