Canada’s government will provide hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation for thousands of Indigenous kids who were forcibly taken from their parents and forced to live with non-native families during the “Sixties scoop.”
The compensation package will range from $500 to $750 million for Indigenous people who were taken from their families during the scoop, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett said on Friday. They will also spend up to $50M to establish a Foundation for reconciliation and will pay $75M for legal fees related to lawsuits over the forced removals.
An estimated 20,000 Indigenous children were taken from their families from the 1960s until the 1980s, and placed with non-Indigenous families losing much of their culture and language in the process. Some suffered serious physical and emotional abuse at the hands of foster parents.
“Agreement in principle doesn’t mean a done deal yet.”
Friday’s compensation package is the culmination of protracted class action lawsuits launched by the survivors. Individual claimants are expected to receive between $25,000 and $50,000 as part of the deal.
“The Sixties Scoop is a dark and painful chapter in Canada’s history,” Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada said in a statement. “This is the first step in resolving the Sixties Scoop litigation.”
The announcement, however, is just the first step. Ottawa and lawyers for the survivors have only struck an agreement in principle; the deal awaits final court approval, expected in the spring of 2018.
Reaction to the announcement was not positive among survivors of the Sixties scoop posting on a Facebook page related to ongoing lawsuits against the government.
“It’s just more waiting,”one B.C. resident wrote on a Facebook group for survivors of the forced removals. “Agreement in principle doesn’t mean a done deal yet.”
“Have you seen the amount they are going to pay the lawyers[?]” wrote another survivor. “Looks like the government bought the lawyers to agree with this amount for us.”
“Maybe I’m just too emotional,” said a third woman. “But I didn’t like what I heard.”
Indigenous kids comprise seven per cent of the population in Canada, but they represent 48 per cent of all children in foster care
With many of the kids forced to work on farms or perform manual labour for their non-native foster families, Indigenous advocates liken the government’s policy to institutionalized human trafficking.
Activists and lawyers say the problem of Indigenous kids being taken from their families has not gone away.
Indigenous kids comprise seven per cent of the population in Canada, but they represent 48 per cent of all children in foster care, according to 2016 Statistics Canada data.
This is due to the legacy of residential schools and the Sixties scoop, Indigenous activists say, with trauma being passed from one generation to the next.
There are three times more indigenous children in care today than there were at the heyday of the residential schools system, according to a report from Ottawa-based First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada.