Lawyer predicts 'circus' atmosphere at national Sixties Scoop hearing starting this week in Saskatoon

Survivors of the Sixties Scoop, lawyers and government officials from across Canada are expected to descend on a Saskatoon courthouse Thursday.

Federal Court to rule on proposed $875-million settlement

Robert Doucette, a former Metis Nation - Saskatchewan president and 60s Scoop survivor, opposes a proposed $875-million settlement. (Bridget Yard/CBC)

Survivors of the Sixties Scoop, lawyers and government officials from across Canada are expected to descend on a Saskatoon courthouse Thursday.

More than 150 supporters and opponents of a proposed $875-million settlement have filed opinions with the Federal Court of Canada in advance of the hearings, with many are planning to speak as well.

An overflow courtroom has been prepared, said an official. Extra staff is being called in. Meetings, negotiations and rallies are being planned before and during the matter taking place downtown at the Court of Queen's Bench.

Regina lawyer Tony Merchant is representing a group of 60s Scoop survivors. He supports a proposed $875-million settlement. (CBC News)

"I think it'll be a circus," Regina lawyer Tony Merchant, whose firm represents roughly 5,000 survivors now living in Canada, the United States, Germany, Australia and elsewhere, told CBC News Monday.

Officials prepare for large crowd

An estimated 20,000 Indigenous children were taken from their families and placed in other homes, mostly with non-Indigenous parents, from the 1960s to the 1980s.

A tentative settlement for loss of family connections, culture and other harm was reached Aug. 30, 2017.

Under the deal, $750 million would go to survivors and their families, $50 million would go to a Sixties Scoop healing fund, and $75 million would go to lawyers who represented the survivors, Merchant said.

Each survivor will be entitled to between $25,000 and $50,000.

A March to honour Sixties Scoop survivors made its way through Portage and Main in Winnipeg before ending at the Manitoba Legislature. (CBC)

Advocates say the deal was years in the making, and finally can give closure to the affected families. Critics say the amounts for survivors are too small, there were no national hearings for survivors to tell their stories, and the deal should have included Métis survivors, not just First Nations.

'The agreement is another black eye for Canada'

Former Métis Nation - Saskatchewan president Robert Doucette and his siblings are Scoop survivors. He said there "can be no reconciliation" unless the Métis survivors are included.

"It's really sad that the federal government wants to ram this process through with these, I guess, supporters of this agreement - the law firms that stand to gain $75 million dollars," Doucette said.

Doucette and others are pushing for a series of national hearings to let survivors tell their stories, much as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission did for residential school survivors.

"The agreement is another black eye for Canada. It's sad and it's wrong, but we'll have our day in court," Doucette said.

Merchant disagrees. He was one of the lawyers who negotiated the agreement. He will be the first to speak at Thursday's hearing and said he hopes the settlement is approved.

It could take years of new talks before another deal is reached if the current agreement is scrapped, Merchant said.

"It brings closure and it says to people the government was wrong, and 'We apologize.' That means a lot to people," Merchant said.

Merchant's firm and two others launched Sixties Scoop lawsuits in 2009. Several others have joined since then.
Merchant said his firm is launching lawsuits against various provincial governments on behalf of Métis survivors.