07/17/2013 10:51 EDT | Updated 09/16/2013 05:12 EDT

First Nations '60's scoop' lawsuit heads to trial

A Toronto lawyer representing Aboriginal people taken from their families during the so-called "Sixties Scoop" say they deserve the same acknowledgement given to residential school survivors.

On Tuesday, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled a class-action lawsuit against the federal government can proceed to trial.

Jeffery Wilson said about 16,000 Aboriginal children in Ontario were sent to live in non-Aboriginal homes between 1965 and 1985.

"The motivating issue for the representative plaintiffs is less about money and more about taking steps that assures this cannot happen again."

Wilson said the children were robbed of their Aboriginal culture, language and identity and are suffering the consequences as adults.

'What happened to them was wrong'

Beaverhouse First Nation Chief Marcia Brown Martel was one of those thousands of children who were taken from their families.

"My biological family was given the information that I was mentally handicapped,” she said.

“That's what the social workers told my family."

Authorities sent Brown Martel to live with a non-Aboriginal family in southern Ontario, where she grew up without any connection to First Nations culture or language.

"I cannot be, nor am I, the person that I would have been,” she said.

Brown Martel and another plaintiff, Robert Commanda, began their attempt to launch a class action lawsuit against the Attorney General of Canada four years ago.

Wilson said his clients hope proceeding to trial will ultimately result in “a ruling that really says that what happened to them was wrong and shouldn't have occurred.”

Like residential schools, the "Sixties Scoop" stole the Aboriginal identity of an entire generation, he said.

"It's hard to reconcile how the Prime Minister or how Canada can say ‘we're sorry’ for the effect in respect to the residential schools case and not offer the same form of acceptance ... of these persons' harm and suffering."

Brown Martel said she hopes the trial will bring some assurance “that this will never be, ever, ever allowed in this country to ... happen [to] any children.”

Now that the lawsuit has been granted certification, Wilson said he hopes other affected people will come forward.

"Any Aboriginal person who was placed in a non-Aboriginal home between 1964 and 1985 ... can register to be a participant in this class action," he said.