Beyond the $875M settlement: '60s Scoop survivors seek to reclaim families, identities

For some survivors of the Sixties Scoop, working to spread news of an approved settlement and connect others with knowledge is their way of reclaiming themselves, and their history.

Sessions offered to survivors answered questions about now-approved settlement

Sixties Scoop survivor Kerry Bellegarde says she considers herself an advocate for her people. She attended a Saturday session about the Sixties Scoop settlement, not just for herself, but to share knowledge with others who may not have been able to attend. (CBC News)

For some survivors of the Sixties Scoop, working to spread news of an approved settlement and connecting others with that knowledge is a way of reclaiming themselves, along with their history and culture.

"We just need advocates in Regina, more people that care from their hearts, not from their pockets," said Kerry Bellegarde, who considers herself an advocate for fellow survivors.

Bellegarde was one of about 50 people in Regina on Saturday attending a session held to answer questions about the Sixties Scoop settlement.

The $875 million settlement was approved by both the Ontario Superior Court and the Federal Court on Aug. 9, but debate still continues over legal fees in the class action.

Bellegarde said while she knows about details of the settlement and who qualifies, she wants to help others understand if and how they want to submit a claim, along with anything else they need to learn in order to move on. 

Meeting her mother

For Bellegarde, her healing began when she met her mother at the age of 16 with the help of her adopted father.

"My quest and my thirst to meet my roots, to be with my roots, was so strong as a youth, that he had brought me right to Regina," she said.

She remembers how eager and welcoming her mother was.

"We stared at each other: we were smiling so hard at each other. It was so awesome," she said, recalling her thoughts at the time — 'That's where I came from.'

Kerry Bellegarde says her healing journey began when she met her biological mother, after being taken from her home during the Sixties Scoop. Here she is with her mother in 2009, before her mother's passing in October of 2010. (Submitted by Kerry Bellegarde)

Now, she says memories of her mother, who passed away in 2010, drives her dedication to support fellow survivors of trauma.

"I just want them to know that we can all be healthy and together," she said. "It's not just for me, it's for everybody."

Survivors may not know they qualify

Melissa Parkyn is co-chair of the the Sixties Scoop Indigenous Society of Saskatchewan, which hosted the meetings in Regina and Saskatoon with support from the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations.

She's heard from several people who don't know if they qualify to receive money from the settlement, which is estimated to range from $25,000 to $50,000 per individual.

"There's folks out there that don't know that they're Sixties Scoop survivors," she said, explaining the class action covered registered Indian and Inuit children who were taken from their homes and placed with non-Indigenous parents between 1951 and 1991.

She's been pointing people to a website that offers information on who qualifies and how to submit claims, as well as details of how and when the settlement will be distributed.

Melissa Parkyn is co-chair of the Sixties Scoop Indigenous Society of Saskatchewan, which hosted a meeting to share information about the $875 million settlement granted for survivors of the Sixties Scoop. (CBC News)

One day at a time

Parkyn said she's met a lot of people over the past year who are still in a lot of pain over what they've lost.

"There's still others out there that don't know who they are," she said. "It's really emotional and hard."

For her, she says she's doing better, taking her journey to recovery one day at a time.

"I feel comfortable where I can speak about it, because I know where I'm from and I met my family. I can support that."

Bellegarde, too, knows what it means to find her roots and heal, something that goes beyond receiving a settlement, but also involves connecting with one's identity, culture and community.

"I want to teach people there is another world," she said.

"There's more than one way to get through this."