A class-action lawyer is applauding the federal government's decision to give Sixties Scoop adoptees financial compensation.
"I think it's a historic day," said Garth Myers, an associate with Koskie Minsky. "I think this settlement is a step in the right direction in terms of healing and reconciliation between Canada's Indigenous community and the country."
- Ottawa to announce $800M settlement with Indigenous survivors of Sixties Scoop
- Two Manitobans hope to launch class-action lawsuit over Sixties Scoop
The settlement comes out of an eight-year court battle on behalf of Ontario survivors. In February, an Ontario Superior Court judge found the federal government failed to prevent on-reserve children from losing their Indigenous identity after they were forcibly taken from their homes as part of what's known as the Sixties Scoop.
Myers is representing a Manitoba class action, which was filed in April 2016.
Koskie Minsky currently has three other class-action suits on behalf of Sixties Scoop adoptees including in Saskatchewan, Alberta and a national class excluding Ontario. There are around 18 outstanding class actions across the country.
Myers said since the federal settlement is pan-Canadian, each outstanding class action will now apply for settlement approval rather than certification.
"We think this settlement is certainly in best interest of all class members and I think they're getting benefits in the settlement that they can never get in court," said Myers.
That includes a reported $50 million set aside for a new Indigenous Healing Foundation.
"It's purpose is to enable change and reconciliation, in particular access to education, healing, wellness, and commemoration activities for communities and individuals," he said.
Myers added he thinks compensation of up to $50,000 for each adoptee is fair. With an estimated 20,000 survivors across Canada, the settlement is said to be upwards of $800 million.
"I'm grateful to the current government for their willingness to come forward and make such a generous offer to this class of vulnerable Indigenous people."
In comparison, residential school survivors' compensation included a $10,000 "common experience payment, plus $3,000 for every year spent there. Survivors who were physically or sexually abused and filed IAP claims received additional payments averaging $111,000 including legal fees.
'That's where you really feel robbed'
One survivor says it's not about money.
"How do you get a cheque for $50,000 and say 'OK, well thanks,' you know, it's not about money," said Philip Paul-Martin, who was taken from his mother's arms in the hospital in 1972 and adopted out two years later.
"I'm supposed to be grateful, that they took me and robbed me of a chance to know my family and cousins, speak my language," he said. He says he's one of the lucky one because he was able to reconnect with family in Attawapiskat First Nation.
"I'm learning slowly, I've lived in my home community on three occasions, and walked the roads of my rez, knocked on my uncle's door and had tea with him, and you get home and you start to know your uncles and they start to leave, pass away, and that's where you really feel robbed."
Paul-Martin says he understands that the Canadian legal system works through monetary compensation.
"But you can't place a dollar value on who you are," he said.
More details of the settlement are expected to be announced Friday morning.