Sixties Scoop settlement admins urge anyone who thinks they could be eligible to fill out a claim form
Company administering claims process can help track down supporting documents
Attending an information session about Canada's Sixties Scoop Settlement Agreement helped lift a heavy weight off Don Barnaby's shoulders.
The information session, held in Montreal on Tuesday, was one of 21 organized across Canada to help shed light on the $875 million settlement agreement, which set aside $750 million for compensation to status First Nations and Inuit children placed into foster care with or adopted by non-Indigenous parents between 1951 and 1991.
"It's much less stress because I've had this weight on my shoulders for 50 years," said Barnaby.
"Knowing that there is a possible solution to my problem, it gives me a lot of hope because I didn't have that many answers before."
Barnaby is from the Mi'kmaw community of Listuguj, Que., but was adopted and raised by a non-Indigenous family in New York state.
"I came here to find out more of what I can do, being adopted and how I can go back to my original name," he said.
"What's more important to me is getting my name back because that's who I am. I love my family that raised me. They're good people, but they didn't know. So it's been a constant struggle for me."
He walked into the session unsure about his eligibility for the settlement. Like many of the others in attendance with similar questions, he was told to fill out a claim form.
"If they're not sure about their eligibility, their Indian status, the length of time they were adopted, where they were adopted... If they don't know, if they don't have their records, in case of any situations like that, just fill out the claim form," said Mélanie Vincent, who organized Montreal's session on behalf of the claims administrator Collectiva.
Applicants can give consent to Collectiva to track down their adoption paperwork or any other supporting documents needed for their claim.
Filing out an application not an easy task for some
Tealey Normandin is an adoptee who has already filed her claim, but was in attendance at the session for her job as an outreach worker at the Native Women's Shelter of Montreal.
She's been preparing application packages for clients with return envelopes and stamps — ready to mail — and dropping them off at organizations across the city.
"My job is my passion, to be out there to help everybody. As an adoptee myself, I know that there's people out there that have no connection, that don't have any answers," said Normandin.
"We need to make that connection and we need to be found and everybody should have the opportunity to fill out this application."
Normandin said some of the women she contacted couldn't attend the information session or decided not to go. Filling out an application may seem simple, but she said for adoptees it can be an emotional process.
"It's bringing up a lot of memories. It's bringing up questions. It's having people think about their birth family, their adoptive families, so it's a rehashing of those memories, that trauma," said Normandin.
"Filling out an application might seem really simple, but it can take you three, four months to get the nerve to get that paper out and start filling it out because of what you're remembering."
The deadline to submit a claim is Aug. 31.