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'There has to be meaningful support': Sask. groups, experts say government needs to go beyond '60s Scoop settlement

Star Phoenix logo Star Phoenix 2017-10-06 Alex MacPherson, Saskatoon StarPhoenix
012717-2501KJKN005.JPG-232695172-2501KJKN005-W.jpg:   © Kayle Neis  

A decision to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to thousands of ’60s Scoop survivors would not have been taken had it not been for the courage of victims who were willing to make their voices heard, according to the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations. 

At the same time, cash payments are not enough to repair the damage caused by government agents robbing Indigenous children of their language and culture by seizing them and adopting them into caucasian families, FSIN vice-chief Kim Jonathan said. 

“I can’t imagine how the individuals feel,” Jonathan said. “Yeah, there’s celebrations, but you can’t just give a certain amount of money and say, ‘We’re done, you’re healed and let’s move on.’ There has to be that meaningful support.”

The federal government is expected to announce the settlement — which will involve payments of between $25,000 and $50,000, up to $750 million, to an estimated 20,000 survivors on Friday. 

The national settlement is aimed at resolving numerous lawsuits, the most notable of which is a successful class action in Ontario, and is expected to set aside $50 million for a new Indigenous Healing Foundation. 

Sources told the Canadian Press on Thursday that the government has also agreed to pay an estimated $75 million toward plaintiffs’ legal fees, on top of the $800-million settlement. 

Jonathan said while the settlement should “without a doubt” have come years or even decades ago, it is an important step — but just a step — toward repairing the damage caused by what she called one of history’s biggest child abductions.

“Many people in society just don’t know the harsh realities,” she said. “So that brings us to educating, and being thankful for those people who have come forward to tell their truth.” 

Filmmaker Tasha Hubbard, whose latest project, Birth of a Family, told the story of four siblings separated in the ’60s Scoop and reunited decades later, said it is unfortunate that the settlement was prompted by ongoing legal actions. 

Hubbard said she is not optimistic about the settlement in part because research suggests the true number of victims, many of whom have never been reunited with their families, is likely higher than the government’s estimate. 

“How do you quantify loss of language and loss of culture?” Hubbard said.

Raven Sinclair, a ’60s Scoop survivor and University of Regina social work professor based in Saskatoon, agreed the proposed payments of up to $50,000 are “really low.”

“When I look at some of the experiences of the people that I’ve interviewed over time, it’s almost an insult,” said Sinclair, whose academic research concentrates on the ’60s Scoop, which did not end until the mid-1980s. 

One source told the Canadian Press that Friday’s announcement is a “significant” step toward resolving the ’60s Scoop issue — part of the Liberal government’s promise under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to prioritize reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous people.

Sinclair acknowledged the $50 million earmarked for a new healing foundation is a positive sign, but questioned the government’s long-term intentions, arguing — as did Jonathan — that many Indigenous children are suffering in systems not suited to their needs.

“The Scoop hasn’t ended. It’s just taken a different form. Now we’re looking at a foster care scoop. Our children are being scooped through the foster-care system.” 

amacpherson@postmedia.com
twitter.com/macphersona

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