Federal court approves Sixties Scoop settlement

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Order to issue payments now before the Ontario Superior Court

OTTAWA – On June 1, the Federal Court of Canada issued approval under the seal of Justice Edward P. Belobaba of an order allowing Collectiva, the administrator of the ‘60s Scoop class action, to issue interim payments of $21,000 to all eligible class members. The ruling helps pave the way for over 12,500 individuals who have been deemed eligible for individual payment as part of a national settlement between the Government of Canada and plaintiffs representing ‘60s Scoop survivors. A similar order to issue interim payments is now being placed in front of the Ontario Superior Court, which also presides over the settlement.

According to Collectiva, the claims administrator, the first interim cheques have already been sent out and will continue to be sent out as more claims are processed. Argyle Public Relationships has been appointed by the federal court to provide communications about the claims process on behalf of the Claims Administrator to ensure Survivors get the information they need and deserve as quickly and clearly as possible.

The ‘60s Scoop is a catchall name for the mass removal of aboriginal children from their families into the child welfare system, generally being placed in non-Indigenous families and, in most cases, without the consent of their families or bands. Those policies prevailed from the 1950s up right up until the 1980s.

The federal announcement comes in the wake of delays to the claims process that have resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic. Those delays centre on the need to protect public health as several provincial archives have closed.  

A news release from Argyle Public Relations notes that those archives “contain important information that the administrator needs to verify some people’s claims.”

On the other side of the coin, social distancing has created barriers for those applicants seeking information and support to back up claims that have been flagged by the administrator as incomplete. 

“We recognize the huge emotional toll this process and delay has had on applicants,” said Doug Lennox of Klein Lawyers in the release. “Under these circumstances, the fair and necessary thing to do was to make sure no one’s application is denied while we’re still in this period of uncertainty.” 

Mr. Lennox represents one of the four law firms that helped negotiate the settlement and that provides ongoing counsel to class members. “Because of this decision, it will take a little longer to determine the total number of eligible applications and, therefore, the final individual payment amount that each person will ultimately receive,” he said. “Class members deserve and are owed justice. The interim payment is about keeping that process of justice moving. It’s the right thing to do.” 

Meanwhile, approvals are still taking place. 

For the thousands of applicants still awaiting a decision on their application, Mr. Lennox said he acknowledges their understandable anxiety and frustration. “We know this has been very hard on people. We want applicants to know that, while the administrator is not denying any claims right now, they are still doing the work to approve them. Those efforts may be more difficult because of the pandemic, but they are happening.”

Sixties Scoop survivor Patrick Madahbee, a former chief of Aundeck Omni Kaning and past Anishinabek Nation Regional Grand Council Chief, said that while he has not yet applied for the payment himself and isn’t following events as closely as he did while he was in office, he does have personal experience of the trauma and dislocation caused by the ‘60s Scoop in the way it tore his own family apart.

“The federal government has been terribly slow,” he said, noting that this is nothing new and follows a pattern he has seen in his decades of service to Anishinabek communities. “Some of the delays are more blatant, but they are generally talking out of both sides of their mouths. They should be making settlements. It’s frustrating for people.”

“I am the oldest of nine children,” said Mr. Madahbee. “We got scattered to the four winds. I even went to high school with my own brother and we never knew each other.”

Mr. Madahbee credits one of his sisters with tracking down all the family members and making connections, but he notes that without the lifelong connections that come from interactions with family members, the disconnection continues to the present day.

While circumstances may have torn families apart during the period of the ‘60s Scoop, the policies of the agencies acting on the government’s behalf not only did nothing to repair the damage, they actually made things much worse. While the settlement cannot repair the damage that has been done, it could and will act as closure for many of those children, now adults, who were impacted by those damaging policies of removal and separation.

Individuals whose applications are approved in the weeks and months ahead will receive the interim payment of $21,000 on an ongoing basis, according to Mr. Lennox.  Those cheques are already being mailed.

He noted that the pause on application denials and timelines is a critical opportunity for applicants who received a Notice of Intent to Reject letter from the administrator dated in either February or March of 2020. Mr. Lennox advises those individuals to “please get in touch with class counsel. We can review your claim and offer guidance that may help you demonstrate your eligibility. We are here to give you the support you are owed.”  

Applicants have the right to legal counsel from the four law firms involved in the settlement. These services are paid for by the settlement and can be accessed by class members at no additional cost to them. 

As for the next steps, the administrator is closely monitoring provincial public health updates and is in discussion with Indigenous partners to determine a threshold for when it will be safe and fair to reinstate timelines for incomplete applications and resume the process of issuing denials, where appropriate. 

Mr. Lennox said he understands that many applicants are wondering when a second and final payment will be able to be made to those found eligible. “All the parties will return to court at a later date to seek an order that will answer that question,” he explains. 

Mr. Lennox went on to say that he hopes the June 1 announcement will offer a glimmer of optimism for applicants. “Making your claim—that was a tremendous step on this long and difficult journey. I honour the strength of every person who is going through this process. We are fully committed to keeping you as informed as possible through this uncertain time.  We are grateful for your patience.” 

For the most up-to-date information on the 60’s Scoop class action settlement, please visit SixtiesScoopSettlement.info