’60s Scoop vic­tims to get $750M

Deal will also fund rec­on­cil­i­a­tion foun­da­tion

The Beacon Herald - - NATIONAL NEWS - KRISTY KIRKUP THE CANA­DIAN PRESS CANA­DIAN PRESS

OT­TAWA — Sur­vivors of a pe­riod in the 1960s that saw Indige­nous chil­dren taken from their homes and placed with non-Indige­nous fam­i­lies hope an agree­ment in prin­ci­ple with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment will put a stop to Abo­rig­i­nal chil­dren be­ing stolen from their lan­guage, cul­ture and iden­tity.

Beaver­house First Na­tion Chief Mar­cia Brown Mar­tel, who was her­self placed in the foster sys­tem as a child only to suf­fer emo­tional, phys­i­cal and sex­ual abuse, said she has “great hope” now that a deal has been reached in­clud­ing $750 mil­lion in com­pen­sa­tion for vic­tims.

In Fe­bru­ary, the On­tario Su­pe­rior Court found the gov­ern­ment li­able for the harm caused by the ’60s Scoop. Brown Mar­tel was the rep­re­sen­ta­tive plain­tiff.

“I have great hope that be­cause we’ve reached this plateau that this again will never, ever hap­pen in Canada again,” Brown Mar­tel said Fri­day as she stood be­side CrownIndige­nous Af­fairs Min­is­ter Carolyn Ben­nett on Par­lia­ment Hill for the an­nounce­ment on the set­tle­ment deal.

At the same time, she warned, Indige­nous chil­dren are still sub­ject to the “mil­len­nium scoop.”

“Chil­dren are still within the child wel­fare sys­tem,” she said

“They call it ‘in care’ but it adds a risk fac­tor for them. There­fore, one must stop us­ing that term ... they’re not in care. They’re away from their com­mu­ni­ties ... our chil­dren need to come home.”

Ben­nett fought back tears Fri­day as she an­nounced de­tails of the deal with Brown Mar­tel and other sur­vivors — a pack­age that also in­cludes up to $50 mil­lion for a foun­da­tion for heal­ing and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment has also ear­marked $75 mil­lion for le­gal fees. The com­pen­sa­tion money will go to in­di­vid­u­als clas­si­fied as sta­tus Indians and Inuit. The ’60s Scoop a dark and painful chap­ter in Canada’s his­tory, Ben­nett said.

“Their sto­ries are heart­break­ing,” Ben­nett said. “They talked of their iden­tity be­ing stolen. They talked about not re­ally feel­ing that you be­long any­where be­cause peo­ple have been moved so of­ten or that they didn’t re­ally have a home.”

Too many Indige­nous chil­dren are still be­ing taken from their fam­i­lies, she added, in­sist­ing Ot­tawa must change the cur­rent de­sign of the sys­tem to en­sure fund­ing goes to­ward chil­dren, fam­ily and com­mu­ni­ties rather than lawyers, agen­cies and non-Indige­nous foster fam­i­lies.

“We want that over­haul to hap­pen so that we a sys­tem of the rights and well-be­ing of Indige­nous chil­dren and youth to be raised in their lan­guage and cul­ture and not have this harm done that was done to these coura­geous peo­ple,” she said.

The agree­ment is a “first step” in re­solv­ing ’60s Scoop lit­i­ga­tion, Ben­nett added, not­ing the fed­eral gov­ern­ment is com­mit­ted to work­ing with other Indige­nous Peo­ples af­fected.

The prov­inces and ter­ri­to­ries are also work­ing on re­solv­ing re­main­ing lit­i­ga­tion, she said, adding in­di­vid­ual com­pen­sa­tion will be de­ter­mined among le­gal coun­sel.

The agree­ment in prin­ci­ple an­nounced by the gov­ern­ment is less than the $1.3 bil­lion Brown Mar­tel sought for vic­tims of the On­tario Scoop in which at-risk on-re­serve Indige­nous chil­dren were placed in non-Abo­rig­i­nal homes from 1965 to 1984 un­der terms of a fed­eral-pro­vin­cial agree­ment.

In a class ac­tion started in 2009, Brown Mar­tel main­tained the gov­ern­ment had been neg­li­gent in pro­tect­ing her and about 16,000 other on-re­serve chil­dren from the last­ing harm suf­fered from be­ing alien­ated from their her­itage.

Jef­fery Wil­son, one of her lawyers, said pre­vi­ously the class ac­tion was the first any­where to rec­og­nize the im­por­tance of a per­son’s cul­tural her­itage and the in­di­vid­ual harm caused when it is lost.

ADRIAN WYLD/THE

Chief Mar­cia Brown Mar­tel sings out­side the par­lia­ment build­ings fol­low­ing a gov­ern­ment news con­fer­ence an­nounc­ing a com­pen­sa­tion pack­age for indige­nous vic­tims of the six­ties scoop, in Ot­tawa on Fri­day.

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