WINNIPEG – Some Manitoba survivors of the ’60s Scoop are encouraging others to opt out of a settlement with the federal government.
They say they were not consulted in the agreement meant to resolve several class-action lawsuits and suggest lawyers will walk away with more money than the Indigenous people who were affected by the adoptions.
“We as children had no say in where we were sent and now they are giving us no say in how we are going to be compensated,” said Coleen Rajotte, who was taken from her community in Saskatchewan when she was a baby and raised by a Manitoba family.
In October, the federal government announced it had reached a $750-million agreement with about 20,000 people who were placed in non-Indigenous foster homes as far away as New Zealand between 1951 and 1991. The agreement, which is yet to be finalized, would see survivors each receive between $25,000 and $50,000.
The four law firms involved would get a separate $75 million. Another $50 million was set aside for the Indigenous Healing Foundation.
Priscilla Meeches and Stewart Garnett were the lead plaintiffs in the Manitoba lawsuit and were in Ottawa for the announcement. They said they didn’t see the agreement before they were brought on stage with Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett.
At a news conference organized in Winnipeg on Friday by a local ’60s Scoop survivors group, they said they are opting out of the settlement.
Meeches said she has felt a loss of identity and home throughout her life because of being adopted out during the ’60s Scoop. She said she spent her life trying to find a place to say, “I’m here. I’m home,” and the settlement has only brought up more feelings of loss.
“I’m not happy with the fact there was no transparency,” Meeches said.
Garnett said Manitoba was the epicentre of the ’60s Scoop and its impact can be seen on the streets of Winnipeg, where many people who were taken from their families are struggling in life after losing their identities.
They said if people accept the agreement they will be signing away the right to sue for sexual and physical abuse that some adoptees experienced.
The group also criticized the settlement for leaving out Métis survivors. The federal government has argued that Métis weren’t recognized as having Indigenous rights at the time, so Ottawa can’t be held responsible for those children.
Jocelyne Bourbonnais said no one asked about her rights when she was adopted in 1965. She said it’s important that Métis support survivors opting out so that her people can be included in a new agreement.
“I am of this land that we call Canada and after 55 years I’m defined as Métis and left out of this settlement,” said Bourbonnais, who added that her mother is Anishinaabe.
The National Indigenous Survivors Network in Ottawa is also trying to get people to opt out.
The groups say there is a clause in the agreement that if 2,000 people agree to opt out it can be declared void.
A statement from Bennett’s office said the proposed settlement resolves issues in the longest-standing case and similar class actions, and represents a significant first step in “resolving this historic injustice.”
“We know that there are other claims that remain unresolved, including those of the Métis and non-status,” the statement said.
It added that the office is committed to resolving remaining litigation through negotiation.