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Metis Sixties Scoop survivors left out of settlement payment

Star Phoenix logo Star Phoenix 2017-10-11 Betty Ann Adam, Saskatoon StarPhoenix

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Video provided by Canadian Press

A Sixties Scoop expert who included her own childhood in 14 foster homes in her doctoral thesis is among the Metis survivors who have been left out of the federal government’s compensation announcement.

“I was sick to my stomach,” Dr. Jacqueline Maurice said of learning that only Treaty First Nations people and Inuit are slated to receive compensation from a $750 million package announced last week by Carolyn Bennett, minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada.

“To me it’s not about the monetary compensation. It is about acknowledgment. To exclude a critical group who was directly impacted by the Sixties Scoop is a revictimization, a retraumatization,” she said.

“Once again, we are silenced, we are excluded. It’s like our experience doesn’t have the weight or the credibility that (Treaty) Indians and Inuit have,” Maurice said.

101017-no_object-221521622-sixtiesscoop-W.jpg © Richard Marjan

Class action lawyer Tony Merchant said his firm will seek compensation for Metis and non-status First Nations in a different class action against provincial governments. That suit will include First Nations and Inuit people who receive the federal payments, with more compensation for individuals who suffered greater harms, such as physical and sexual abuse.

Merchant said that suit can only proceed after the federal settlement is finalized, as he hopes it will be in May 2018.

He’s already heard from people in Florida, New York, Germany and Australia who are entitled to the compensation, he said, adding he hopes the news will spread around the world on social media, as many won’t know about it otherwise.

Merchant estimates half the children taken in the Scoop were Metis or non-status; he said it’s unfair they weren’t included in the federal compensation.

“The issue of how you prove you’re Metis is a daunting task,” he said.

Saskatchewan had a formal program called Adopt Indian and Metis. 

“I said it 38 times, (but) you see the result,” Merchant said. “I’m not satisfied that the fight ends here, or anything close.”

The federal compensation will provide $25,000 per person if there are more than 20,000 claimants, or $50,000 if there are fewer than 20,000 claimants. Up to $50 million will also be used for a foundation “to enable change and reconciliation,” according to a government backgrounder.

The federal class included children taken between 1951 and 1991.

“If anything could be worse than residential school it was even worse because they didn’t even know who their parents were. They didn’t have anybody to contact (when abuses such as) sexual relations took place,” Merchant said.

“None of that is compensated in this federal government package.”

Merchant’s firm was one of four that participated in negotiations since December 2016; four federal government lawyers, two federal officials and a Federal Court justice were involved in coming to the agreement, he said.

Metis and non-status Indigenous children were not included because of the difficulty in court of holding the federal government accountable for harms to them, whereas there is a clear obligation for the Crown to protect its Treaty partners, Merchant said.

The successful Ontario class action that sparked the national settlement had a narrow focus, including only children who were born to mothers living on one of 22 First Nations in that province, he noted. Children whose mothers lived off reserve when they gave birth would not have been eligible for compensation if not for the agreement as it stands now, he said.

Maurice grew up without any connection to any person, family or community after she was taken as part of Saskatchewan’s Adopt Indian and Metis (AIM) program. With each move, she lost the people she was attached to, never to return or have any further connection. Besides that repeated trauma, she suffered physical and sexual abuse. By the time she was 15 she had attempted suicide more than once.

Maurice had the good fortune to connect with a teacher who became her lifeline, providing the unconditional love she had never known. She eventually attended university, achieving a PhD in Social Work, and was an early spokesperson educating others about the Sixties Scoop.

The cover of her 2014 book, The Lost Children: A Nation’s Shame, features a photograph of her as a three-year-old that was used in advertising her for adoption in the AIM program.

Being left out of the settlement “shouldn’t surprise me,” she said. “My story is a story and history of departure and exclusion.” 

badam@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/SPBAAdam

 

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