'Time is running out,' say '60s Scoop advocates as deadline to apply for compensation approaches
Deadline is Friday for Inuit and First Nations fostered or adopted by non-Indigenous parents to apply
- Applications made between Aug. 31 and Nov. 28 by people with disabilities may be considered.
As the year-long claims process for Canada's settlement agreement with Sixties Scoop survivors approaches its deadline, advocates are worried some adoptees will be left out of receiving compensation.
The $875 million class action settlement agreement set aside $750 million to compensate status First Nations and Inuit children who were removed from their homes and placed with non-Indigenous foster or adoptive parents between 1951 and 1991 and lost their cultural identities as a result.
A part of the settlement includes $50 million for the establishment of a foundation, which will begin consulting with survivors on Sept. 20 in Montreal.
Claims administrator Collectiva has received over 20,000 claims to date, and will continue to receive submissions by mail, fax, or online until Friday, Aug. 30.
"The deadline was too short," said Colleen Cardinal, the co-director of the National Indigenous Survivors of Child Welfare Network.
"Today, there are still people who don't know that they could be eligible for a large sum of money, and are just hearing about it."
The network runs a toll free line with peer support and receives many calls from survivors with questions and concerns about the settlement process — more than usual as the deadline approaches, she said.
"People are panicking," said Cardinal.
She said adoptees across the country, as well as who live in the United States, are struggling to acquire information about Indian status. The settlement applies only to Inuit and to people who are registered or eligible to register for status under the Indian Act.
Those who are not registered for Indian status are required to fill out a request for verification of eligibility form, an eight-page document requiring birth documentation, adoption information and family information of their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.
"The time is running out for them to get the information they need, and there's no fast way to expedite that information," said Cardinal.
"It makes me angry. It feels like there is no justice."
Calls to extend the deadline
Cardinal and other survivors called on the office of the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs to extend the deadline. They're also concerned those who are incarcerated, institutionalized, live on the street, individuals affected by recent changes to Indian status eligibility from Bill S-3 and those were scooped overseas will be left out.
Tealey Normandin has similar concerns about the deadline.
"The information hasn't reached everyone," said Normandin, a Sixties Scoop survivor and outreach worker at the Native Women's Shelter of Montreal.
"A lot of people are going to miss out on the chance."
Throughout the year, she carried around English and French application packages in her purse with envelopes and stamps — ready to mail — for clients. She said some of the people she's talked with weren't ready to fill out the compensation form and might not be before Friday rolls around.
Filling out form difficult for some adoptees
"I have a supportive family. I have a mother that I can go and talk to, who has always been supportive in finding my Indigenous roots. Some of these individuals don't have anybody there to help them through this," said Normandin.
"They were re-traumatized to the point where memories were resurfacing, anxiety was elevated, panic attacks, heart ache, depression — just filling out the application brought back a lot of bad memories."
Douglas Lennox, one of the attorneys for the class action at Klein Lawyers, recognized the challenges with the claim process.
"There are challenges with any claims process that we might set up because it's always difficult for people to relive what's happened to them," said Lennox.
"If someone is struggling I hope they seek support in their local community and that they have a support network around them. We, as the lawyers on the case, are happy to talk with people and help them through the process."
Lennox said applicants can give consent to Collectiva to track down their adoption paperwork or any other supporting documents needed for their claim.
"If somebody is not sure if they're eligible, I would encourage them to apply. They have until Friday, and if they apply, the claims administrator can do the legwork for them to try to verify their claim."
The office of the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs said on Sept. 5 that under the settlement agreement, applications made between Aug. 31, 2019 and Nov. 28, 2019 by a person under disabilities or who is delayed from delivering an application as a result of undue hardship or exceptional circumstances may be considered by the claims administrator on the direction of the reconsideration officer.