Sixties Scoop survivors in Montreal eager for answers as information session approaches

Sixties Scoop survivors living in Quebec hope an upcoming information session will help shed light on Canada's settlement agreement with First Nations and Inuit children who were removed from their homes and lost their cultural identities as a result.

The $875 million settlement agreement set aside $750 million for all status First Nations and Inuit children placed into foster care or adopted by a non-Indigenous parent between 1951 and 1991.

The sessions, which are open to Sixties Scoop survivors, their families, and advocates, started in December in Vancouver and continue across the country until April 8 in Iqaluit. The only one planned for Quebec takes place Jan. 15 in Montreal.

Al Harrington will be attending for assistance in filling out the claim form — something he's felt has been a daunting task because he's unsure if he's eligible for the settlement.

"It's unclear," he said.

Originally from the Ojibway community of Shoal Lake 39 in northwestern Ontario, Harrington and his twin sister were put into foster care in the mid-'70s as babies and later taken in by Ray Harrington, an Ontario Provincial Police officer who worked in the community.

Jessica Deer/The Eastern Door

"To our understanding, we were adopted by the Harringtons, but as to what led up to that is kind of unclear because our grandparents are not around and same with our parents," he said.

What to expect at the Montreal session

Mélanie Vincent is organizing the session in Montreal on behalf of the claims administrator Collectiva.

In the morning, organizers will explain the claims process in a group session, with time for a question and answer period. In the afternoon, a financial advisor will give a group session with tips about managing money received through the settlement.

Survivors will also be able to get one-on-one help if they want to fill out their claim on site. That includes helping claimants track down their adoption paperwork or any other documents they need for their claim.

"It's very important for claim eligible class members to understand that they don't have to have all their papers together before filing their claim form," said Vincent.

"If they have missing documents or if they're not sure where to get the documents, there is a consent form that people can sign for Collectiva ... to search for their evidence or their records."

The Montreal session is the only one scheduled to be held in Quebec but Vincent said survivors do not have to attend a session in order to fill out a claim form. Information is available on the website and by phone, toll free at 1-844-287-4270.

Questions across Canada

Colleen Cardinal, the co-director of the National Indigenous Survivors of Child Welfare Network, said the information sessions are needed. The network runs a toll free line with peer support and has received many calls from survivors with questions and concerns about the settlement process.

"This was needed from Day 1. They should have been doing this last year to provide information to folks who may qualify," she said.

The deadline to submit a claim is Aug. 31, and for Cardinal, the 21 sessions planned by Collectiva may not be enough to get the word out to communities.

"The onus is on us to spread through our networks. People working with Indigenous people and organizations need to make sure that their clients know that this money is there for them," she said.

The network plans on holding its own information session closer to the deadline, but they also hope to see a national inquiry on child welfare practices happen as a way for adoptees and survivors of child welfare to share their experiences.

"None of us have been consulted or had an opportunity to talk about what's happened to us, in any process at all. It's just gone from the court system right to settlement," she said.