Sixties Scoop lawsuit could be tied up by 'years of fighting,' says Métis leader

Legal wrangling in Manitoba over proposed class-action lawsuits by survivors of the Sixties Scoop has a Métis leader worried that the case could face lengthy delays.

At issue is which legal team will represent proposed class action in Manitoba

Over 100 survivors, First Nations and members of the public gathered at the Manitoba Legislature on June 18, 2015, to hear the provincial government's apology for the Sixties Scoop. (Trevor Lyons/CBC)

Legal wrangling in Manitoba over proposed class-action lawsuits by survivors of the Sixties Scoop has a Métis leader worried that the case could face lengthy delays.

Two legal teams are competing to serve as lead counsel for survivors, including some in Manitoba, who want to take the Canadian government to court for its role in the Sixties Scoop, in which Indigenous children were removed from their homes and placed in non-Indigenous foster homes during the 1960s to '80s.

The lawsuits have not been certified as class action at this time. The law firms are competing for carriage of the case when it comes time to apply for certification and any other future proceedings.

In a ruling issued Aug. 24, Justice James Edmond of the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench awarded carriage to a consortium consisting of Koskie Minsky, a Toronto law firm, and Winnipeg-based Troniak Law.

Edmond also ruled that a second Sixties Scoop case, represented by Regina-based Merchant Law, should not go ahead as a proposed class action case.

The judge added that Koskie Minsky and Troniak Law should make sure their application for class action certification includes clients from Merchant Law's proposed class action.

Merchant Law told CBC News it plans to file an appeal of Edmond's ruling this week.

'Lawyers are going to be battling'

The latest developments in the case has David Chartrand, president of the Manitoba Métis Federation, concerned that survivors who have signed up for the lawsuit won't see any resolution for months or longer.

"Never. If lawyers are promising people that, it ain't going to happen," he said Monday. "Even just who's going to represent victims is potentially going to take years of fighting."

Chartrand said he's also worried that if the lawsuit results in a settlement, survivors could see some of their compensation eaten up by legal fees.

"The lawyers are going to be battling. They see a massive opportunity for a financial settlement to take place here and they're going to look at what dividends, a share, they can get out of this thing," Chartrand told CBC News on Monday.

"Our people, a lot are not aware. They don't realize if there's a settlement they [the lawyers] are going to take about 30 per cent or more of your share."

Chartrand said he's hopeful the federal government will negotiate a settlement with Sixties Scoop survivors, after hearing Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett say last month that she would prefer to settle the matter out of court.

"We'll probably [have] negotiations on behalf of our citizens to try and get a settlement, and we won't charge a penny," he said.

"These people who have signed up with lawyers are going to have to give up their dividends. People don't realize what that means."

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With files from Susan Magas