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Montreal Sixties Scoop survivors critical of federal settlement

Survivors question how they will be compensated, whether money was right approach to begin with

CBC News

October 06, 2017

Nakuset, a Cree woman and Sixties Scoop survivor, says it was overwhelming to learn that she would be compensated for what she went through. (Charles Contant/CBC)

Some Montreal survivors of the Sixties Scoop are not satisfied with the way the government has gone about recognizing and trying to remedy what happened to them.

The Sixties Scoop refers to thousands of Indigenous children were taken from their parents and placed in care with non-Indigenous people.

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Nakuset, a Cree woman from Lac La Ronge, Sask., was taken from her home when she was three years old and was adopted by a Jewish couple in Montreal. She says she can speak more Yiddish than Cree.

"I'd like to think that I'm a balanced person and moving forward in a good way, but I'm so affected by all this," she said.

'If you were beaten every day, do you get more money than those who had a really good family experience?' - Nakuset, director of the Native Woman's Shelter of Montreal

On Friday, the federal minister for Crown-Indigenous Relations, Carolyn Bennett, said a final agreement still has to be reached, but the government has set aside $750 million for individual compensation and another $50 million for a foundation dedicated to reconciliation initiatives.

All First Nations and Inuit children who were removed from their homes — and lost their cultural identities as a result — between 1951 and 1991 are entitled to compensation.

If there are more than 20,000 claimants, each individual will receive a payout of $25,000 and if there are fewer than 20,000, each claimant will receive up to a maximum of $50,000.

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Survivors lost everything that makes them Indigenous, said Nakuset, and she now feels like she and others like her will have to prove how much they suffered before they are compensated.  0:44

Proof of suffering?

Nakuset said she is curious to see how the government will decide exactly how much money each survivor is entitled to.

"If you were beaten every day, do you get more money than those who had a really good family experience? It's a pretty touchy subject," she said.

"How do you measure trauma?"

Nakuset's earliest photograph — when she was three years old — is also the picture used during her adoption. (Submitted by Nakuset)

Survivors lost their culture, their community, "everything that makes them Indigenous," she said, and she now feels like she and others like her will be compensated based on how much they suffered.

Nakuset is now the executive director of the Native Women's Shelter of Montreal. She said she channelled her grief over what happened to her into success, working to make the shelter a hub in the community.

She said she feels that since the government isn't doing enough, she has to spearhead change.

'I was suffocating'

Nina Segalowitz grew up in Montreal with her Jewish father and Filipino mother. But she was born Anne-Marie Thrasher, in Fort Smith, N.W.T.

She said she spent much of her life trying to find a place where she belonged. 

The news of the settlement "enraged" her, she said, because she feels as if the government, working with a small group of people, has decided what her experience is worth without consulting her.

"I felt like I was suffocating again. It just bought up all those feelings of being uprooted, again," she said.

She said the money isn't what concerns her. What she would have wanted is for survivors to have the option of being reunited with their families for however long they need to be together.

"They're the ones who took me away, so why shouldn't they be responsible for [bringing me back]?"

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Nina Segalowitz's birth mother had all her seven children taken away from her. Nina was taken away as a baby after she was sick and her parents dropped her off at the hospital  1:48

Legacy of Sixties Scoop lives on, survivor says

The compensation, Nakuset said, is a step toward reconciliation, and she thinks the money put toward programming for different Indigenous organizations will make a difference.

But she also believes the government needs to acknowledge that the Sixties Scoop didn't end with her generation.

It began an epidemic of overrepresentation of Indigenous children in the child welfare system, she said, and perpetuated the idea that Indigenous people can't take care of their children, reasoning that is still used when social services take children from their parents.

With files from Lauren McCallum
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