Lawyers filed a suit on behalf of alleged Yukon victims of the Sixties Scoop in court Oct. 20. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News)

Yukoners taken as part of Sixties Scoop file class action lawsuit

Suit alleges government violated the rights of hundreds of Indigenous children from 1950 to 1993

A Yukon law firm has filed a proposed class action lawsuit against the federal government and Yukon’s commissioner on behalf of Indigenous children taken as part of the Sixties Scoop.

Lawyers with Shier and Jerome served the Attorney General and Yukon’s commissioner on Oct. 20.

The lawsuit alleges government officials violated the rights of hundreds of Indigenous Yukon children who were placed in foster homes, group homes or with adoptive families from 1950 to 1993.

This was done in an effort to assimilate them into white families, the lawsuit says, “with the assumption that the languages and culture of First Nations, Metis and Inuit people were inferior to those of white, Euro-Canadian, mainstream Canadian society.”

The policies and procedures by the federal government and the commissioner during the Sixties Scoop were “intentional actions or attempts to destroy the class members national, ethnic and racial groups by forcibly transferring class members to another group (white, Euro-Canadian, mainstream Canadian society),” it says.

Some of the children suffered psychological, physical, and/or sexual abuse, the lawsuit says.

They suffered from the loss of cultural identity, the loss of language and the loss of the ability to participate meaningfully in employment opportunities leading to a loss or impairment of capacity to earn income, the suit says.

Officials failed to investigate or supervise the places where the children were sent, or take the steps to make sure children were not abused, it alleges.

The lawsuit asks the government be ordered to pay damages, though it doesn’t name a specific sum.

According to some estimates, as many as 20,000 First Nation and Metis children across Canada were taken away from their families from the 1960s to the 1980s and adopted into non-Indigenous families.

Earlier this month the federal government announced it had reached an agreement in principle to spend up to $750 million to compensate those taken as part of the Sixties Scoop.

Few details have been released at this point. According to a federal press release, parties are working to finalize the agreement by the end of 2017, and will seek court approval in spring 2018.

No one from the federal Department of Justice could be reached in time for today’s deadline.

Lawyer Dan Shier said he sees the Yukon lawsuit as an “opportunity for Yukoners to have control over their own action rather than as a very small part of a very large national class action.”

Shier said he believes the Yukon lawsuit is different from the federal action because it includes the Yukon government, via the commissioner, taking children and putting them up not just for adoption, but also in foster homes and group homes.

Once the commissioner and the federal government file their defence it will be up to a Yukon Supreme Court justice to decide whether the facts in the case are enough to qualify as a class action.

Shier said his office felt it was important to name the commissioner in the lawsuit.

“Not that he had anything to do with it personally, we’re not taking (that) line. It’s just that in his role as commissioner we feel that it needs to go to the top and then trickle down.”

Typically naming the commissioner in a lawsuit is the same as naming the territorial government, he said.

“We expect there will be separate defences entered by the commissioner, to be done by Yukon’s department of legal services, and by the AG of Canada and that will be done by Department of Justice Canada.”

The office of Commissioner Doug Phillips directed all questions to the territorial Department of Justice

Justice spokesperson Dan Cable said the department had just recently seen the paperwork and he couldn’t comment in time for today’s deadline.

Shier said his office is in the process of circulating information about the proposed class action to all of the territory’s First Nation Health Departments.

The Yukon case names two Yukoners who were taken from their family in the Sixties Scoop. Charles Eshleman and Christine Mullin are both members of the Tr’ondek Hwech’in First Nation who were taken from their homes.

“These are two wonderful individuals who we’ve been working with for quite a long time. (They) will, when they are involved in the case, be able to tell … just what this has meant for them and their families and their communities,” Shier said.

He said his office is asking the judge to approve an “opt out” option, meaning people won’t have to sign up to be part of the class action.

Instead, anyone who qualifies would be part of any settlement unless they don’t want to be.

No date has been set for when a Yukon judge will decide whether to certify the case as a class action.

Contact Ashley Joannou at

Indigenous peoplesLaw & JusticeSixties Scoop

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

During our recent conversation, John Nicholson showed me snapshots of his time working on the Yukon riverboats 70 years ago. (Michael Gates)
History Hunter: Yukon man relives the riverboat days after seven decades

John Nicholson took summer work on Yukon steamers in the 1950s

Whitehorse City Hall at its Steele Street entrance. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Change of plans approved for city hall

Project would see 1966 city hall demolished

A city map shows the property at 107 Range Road. The zoning is now in place for developers to proceed with plans for a Dairy Queen drive-thru. If plans proceed on schedule the new restaurant is anticipated to open in October. (Cyrstal Schick/Yukon News)
October opening eyed for Dairy Queen

Will depend on everything going according to plan

NDP candidate Annie Blake, left, and Liberal incumbent Pauline Frost. (Submitted photos)
Official recount confirms tie vote in Vuntut Gwitchin riding

Both candidates Pauline Frost and Annie Blake are still standing with 78 votes each

Artist’s rendering of a Dairy Queen drive-thru. At its April 13 meeting, Whitehorse city council approved a zoning change to allow a drive-thru at 107 Range Road. Developers sought the change to build a Dairy Queen there. (Submitted)
Drive-thru approved by Whitehorse city council at 107 Range Road

Rezoning could pave the way for a Dairy Queen

Joel Krahn/ Hikers traverse the Chilkoot Trail in September 2015. Alaska side.
The Canadian side of the Chilkoot Trail will open for summer

The Canadian side of the Chilkoot Trail will open for summer Parks… Continue reading

Letters to the editor.
Today’s mailbox: Hands of Hope, the quilt of poppies

Toilets are important Ed. note: Hands of Hope is a Whitehorse-based non-profit… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

A look at city council matters for the week of April 12

École Whitehorse Elementary Grade 7 students Yumi Traynor and Oscar Wolosewich participated in the Civix Student Vote in Whitehorse on April 12. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Yukon Student Vote chooses Yukon Party government; NDP take popular vote

The initiative is organized by national non-profit CIVIX

Yvonne Clarke is the newly elected Yukon Party MLA for Porter Creek Centre. (Submitted/Yukon Party)
Yvonne Clarke elected as first Filipina MLA in the Yukon Legislative Assembly

Clarke beat incumbent Liberal Paolo Gallina in Porter Creek Centre

Emily Tredger at NDP election night headquarters after winning the Whitehorse Centre riding. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Emily Tredger takes Whitehorse Centre for NDP

MLA-elect ready to get to work in new role

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Two new cases of COVID-19 variant identified in territory

“If variants were to get out of control in the Yukon, the impact could be serious.”

Today’s Mailbox: Rent freezes and the youth vote

Dear Editor, I read the article regarding the recommendations by the Yukon… Continue reading

Most Read