Ottawa's $800M for Sixties Scoop survivors a 'slap in the face,' says Alberta society president

The president of the Sixties Scoop Indigenous Society of Alberta is frowning at the amount he’s heard Ottawa is ready to fork out to over 20,000 survivors.

'There are a lot of Sixties Scoop survivors that never made it home,' says Alberta survivor

Adam North Peigan leads Alberta Sixties Scoop survivors in lobbying the provincial government for an apology. (Brandi Morin)

The president of the Sixties Scoop Indigenous Society of Alberta is frowning at the amount he's heard Ottawa is ready to fork out to over 20,000 survivors.

"That's basically a slap in the face," Adam North Peigan told CBC News Thursday.

"For the amount of trauma and the atrocities that we have faced, it's really below the line of poverty."  

On Friday, the federal government is expected to offer a collective $800 million to about 20,000 victims of the Sixties Scoop era.

Between 1964 and 1985, Indigenous children around Canada were taken from their homes and put in non-Indigenous families, depriving them of their culture and causing psychological harm.

Sources revealed the plan Thursday but cautioned that final amounts and details will be made by federal Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett.

"It's long overdue but … for the atrocities that we had to endure … it's well below the line of really what we're feeling we should be entitled to," North Peigan said of the payout.

Sixties Scoop Indigenous Society of Alberta president Adam North Peigan has been meeting with the Alberta's Indigenous Relations ministry to give input on a thoughtful apology. (Adam North Peigan)

Born in 1964 in Blackfoot territory between Pincher Creek and Fort MacLeod in southern Alberta, North Peigan was put in numerous non-Indigenous foster homes up until he was 17.

One of thousands who endured the same cultural deprivation, he suffered a severe loss of identity, he said. When he returned to his community as a young adult, he suffered a culture shock.   

"Abandonment was huge among the Sixties Scoop survivors, including myself, not being able to trust anyone," he said.

Many turned to drugs and alcohol and never recovered.

"There are a lot of Sixties Scoop survivors that never made it home by taking their own lives and succumbing to alcohol and drug abuse, and they're not with us today."

The federal announcement is aiming to resolve numerous lawsuits, driven by a successful class action lawsuit in Ontario in March.

Reportedly, the settlement will include somewhere between $50-100 million for healing programs, although it's not clear whether that's part of the $800 or in addition to the amount for individuals.

Garth Myers, a lawyer involved in the class-action lawsuits for Sixties Scoop survivors in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, said he's pleased with the settlement offer, especially with the proposed foundation for healing programs. 

Lawyer Garth Myers, part of the class-action lawsuit for Sixties Scoop survivors, is pleased that a foundation will be set up to facilitate healing and wellness. (Koskie Minsky LLP)

Myers told CBC News a foundation can only be created through a settlement, not through litigation in the courts.

"Its purpose is to enable change and reconciliation, in particular access to education, healing, wellness," he said.

"I think really that should be the main focus of the settlement," he said, adding he thinks the amount offered to individuals is reasonable.

Ultimately it's up to the judge to approve the settlement. Class-action members can come forward and make claims for compensation from the settlement, Myers said.

North Peigan's group has also been working amicably with the Alberta government to formulate a meaningful apology for the Sixties Scoop, he said.

A statement issued Thursday by Alberta Minister of Indigenous Relations Richard Feehan acknowledged the tragedy of the era.

"An apology must be thoughtful and be done in direct consultation with survivors," the statement read. "We will engage and listen to them as we discuss the best way to move forward."

North Peigan said it's long overdue that both Canada's prime minister and provincial premiers apologized.