Canada will pay almost $900 million to settle lawsuits filed by indigenous people who were taken from their families as children and adopted by predominately white people, the government said Friday.
“Today I am pleased to announce that an agreement has been reached in resolving this litigation,” Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett said at a press conference in Ottawa.
“Language and culture, apology, healing, these are essential elements to begin to right the wrongs of this dark and painful chapter.”
About 20,000 native children were taken from their parents -- sometimes by force -- from 1961 to 1983 and adopted by mostly white families. It was called the “Sixties Scoop.”
Under the terms of the settlement, the government will pay $750 million in direct compensation to the survivors – between $25,000 and $50,000 to each claimant – and $50 million to establish a foundation to help indigenous families heal, as well as $75 million to cover legal fees of the plaintiffs.
“They (survivors) have lived their lives not being able to be proud indigenous people,” Bennett said. “They have lived their lives not having a secure personal cultural identity. That was robbed away.”
Despite Bennett’s assertion that the settlement will begin to “right the wrongs”, not everyone agreed.
The vice-chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations – the federation represents 74 First Nations groups in the province of Saskatchewan – said money is not enough to give those affected peace of mind.
“Yeah, there’s celebrations, but you can’t just give a certain amount of money and say, ‘We’re done, you’ve healed and let’s move on.’ There has to be that meaningful support,” said Kim Jonathan.
Marcia Brown Martel of the Temagami First Nation and the first to file a lawsuit in Ontario in 2009 over the Sixties Scoop, said she agreed to a settlement because the government put money into a foundation to encourage reconciliation, a “path forward”.
“There is great hope within myself that indigenous children in this country…will never again be taken from their culture,” Brown Martel said.