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Sixties Scoop survivors' decade-long journey for justice culminates in historic pan-Canadian agreement

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SOURCE Ontario Sixties Scoop Steering Committee

Chief Marcia Brown Martel joins Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations to announce a pan-Canadian resolution for children of the Sixties Scoop

OTTAWA, Oct. 6, 2017 /CNW/ - Today, surrounded by fellow Sixties Scoop survivors from across Canada, Chief Marcia Brown Martel stood beside Carolyn Bennett, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, as she announced a historic "agreement in principle" for all Canadian children who were taken from their homes and had their identities taken from them in the Sixties Scoop.

"I have envisioned this day for so many years," says Chief Martel, who filed her initial pleadings against the federal government on behalf of Ontario survivors in 2009. "It has been a very long journey, but we made it. Today, I am proud to say: Canada stepped into the light."

The agreement will see Canada pay between $500 and 800 million in restitution to Indigenous children who lost their cultural identities after being removed from their families and communities and placed with non-Indigenous foster and adoptive families in Canada, the US, and Europe. Individuals will receive compensation in the range of $25,000 - $50,000, depending on the number of claimants who come forward. The costs for the four legal teams involved in the agreement will be paid for separately by the government, not out of the claimants' award, and will be set at 15% of the minimum government payout.

The agreement is unique in establishing an endowment of at least $50 million for an Indigenous Healing Foundation-an outcome Chief Martel has championed for many years. The foundation will focus on providing culturally appropriate counselling and traditional healing services, while also carrying forward the memory and lessons of the Sixties Scoop for generations to come.

"We wanted something lasting to come out of this, something that will continue to help survivors and our children and grandchildren well into the future," said Chief Martel. "The foundation is the soul of this victory."

Notably, the foundation was not an outcome Chief Martel would have been able to achieve in the courtroom. Chief Brown's Ontario case, the only certified class action case in Canada, won a significant victory in February 2017 when Justice Edward Belobaba ruled that the government was liable for harm experienced by Sixties Scoop survivors in Ontario. A compensation hearing was set to take place on October 11th. However, Chief Martel chose to adjourn that court date in order to further pan-Canadian agreement discussions, where a more comprehensive and innovative resolution was possible.

"It was important to me that we got recognition and justice, not just for some, but for as many people as possible," Chief Martel notes.

Today's agreement is not just unique for Canada; it sets a global precedent for responding to issues of cultural genocide.

"Never before in history has a nation recognized, in this way, children's right to their cultural identities, and a government's responsibility to do everything in its power to protect the cultural identity of children in its care," explains Jeffery Wilson, the Canadian child rights lawyer who has been Chief Martel's lead counsel on this case for 13 years.

"We have learned so much from Marcia," says Wilson. "It's humbling and inspiring to see her vision come to fruition today."

Sixties Scoop Settlement Agreement FAQ

About the Settlement Announcement

Overview of the settlement agreement
On October 6, the Canadian Government announced that it has reached a pan-Canadian settlement with the survivors of the Sixties Scoop. The agreement will include restitution for individuals who lost their cultural identities after being removed from their families and communities and placed with non-Indigenous foster and adoptive families. The agreement will also establish a foundation to contribute to healing and systemic solutions for survivors.

Who is included in the settlement?
The settlement agreement includes "Indians" (per the Indian Act) and "Inuit" survivors of the Sixties Scoop across Canada, including those who lived on and off reserve, and who were removed from their homes and lost their cultural identities between 1951 and 1991.

What is the compensation and how will it be distributed?
The Government of Canada will pay between $500 and $800 million in restitution. At least $50 million of this sum will serve as the endowment for a new Indigenous Healing Foundation to be established this fall.

Up to a total of $750 million will be used for individual compensation, structured as follows:

  • If there are more than 20,000 claimants, each will receive $25,000 in compensation, to a maximum of $750 million.
  • If there are fewer than 20,000 claimants, each will receive $50,000 (maximum) in compensation, to a maximum of $500 million.
  • If there are remaining funds after individual compensation has been paid out, that money will be used to top up the foundation's endowment.

For example:

  • If 25,000 survivors come forward, each will receive $25,000. In this case, the total individual compensation will be $625 million. The foundation would then receive top-up funding of the remainder of the $750 million, equalling $125 million.
  • If 8,000 survivors come forward, each will receive $50,000. In this case, the total individual compensation would be $400 million. The foundation would then receive top-up funding of the remainder of the $500 million, equalling $100 million.

How will legal fees be paid?
Compensation for legal teams involved in the settlement will be paid separately by the government, and will not come out of the compensation package for survivors. The total amount paid to the four legal teams working on the agreement is set at 15% of the minimum government payout (equal to $75 million). This sum covers all past and future legal fees accrued by the legal teams in developing and executing the agreement. It is expected that work will continue to fulfill the agreement until at least August 2019.

About the Ontario Sixties Scoop Claim

History of the Case

  • In 2009, the Ontario Sixties Scoop survivors filed initial pleadings against the Government of Canada on behalf of the estimated 16,000 children involved in the scoop, with the hope that such a case would help this generation of Indigenous children.
  • In 2013, the case was certified by the Ontario Superior Court. This is the only Sixties Scoop case to be certified in Canada.
  • Over 8.5 years, the case was adjourned or delayed 16 times. There were 8 attempts by government to have the case thrown out of court.
  • On February 14, 2017 the Ontario Superior Court found the Government of Canada liable for harm endured by Sixties Scoop survivors in failing to protect their cultural identities.
  • A compensation hearing was set to take place on October 11, 2017. Chief Martel chose to adjourn this court date in order to further pan-Canadian agreement discussions.

Why settlement instead of pursuing a court decision?
Chief Martel chose to pursue a pan-Canadian settlement agreement for two key reasons            

  1. This settlement will expand the number of survivors that are eligible for compensation by increasing the geographic scope as well as by the time period for eligibility. The Ontario class action limited eligibility to survivors from Ontario who lived on-reserve from 1965-1984. The settlement broadens eligibility to include First Nations and Inuit survivors across Canada, including those who lived off-reserve, crown ward and (in some cases) temporary ward children, and those who lived in permanent care but were not adopted. It also broadens the period to include those "scooped" between 1951-1991.

  2. In addition to individual compensation, the settlement includes funds to establish a foundation that will contribute to a more systemic solution for survivors. This would not be possible through a court decision.

About Wilson Christen LLP.
Chief Martel is represented by the family law firm, Wilson Christen.  Founding partner, Jeffery Wilson, has being working with Chief Martel on the Ontario Sixties Scoop case for 13 years; his team has dedicated upwards of 13,000 person hours to the case to date.

As a demonstration of its commitment to healing and justice for Sixties Scoop survivors, Wilson Christen intends to donate $1,000,000 to the new foundation established by the pan-Canadian agreement. The firm hopes to lead by example.

©2017 PR Newswire. All Rights Reserved.

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