A woman who has spent months informing ’60s Scoop survivors about Ottawa’s class-action settlement says she’ll continue advising people to object to the deal, even after a federal judge approved the agreement.
“The biggest problem for me is this entire process was set up to make sure that we as adoptees could not object,” said Coleen Rajotte, who is one of the survivors who spoke at federal court hearings on the settlement in Saskatoon last week.
Rajotte says it took her months to get a copy of the agreement after it was struck last fall, and that survivors believed they would get two days in Saskatoon to tell their stories of being taken from their Indigenous homes as children and adopted out to non-Indigenous families.
But one of the two days ended up focused on the lawyers’ cut in the deal. Survivors who wished to object got just three minutes and some who went over their time were cut off, in tears, by Justice Michel Shore.
“Basically to us this looks like a complete sham, that they put on this day of hearings so they could say, ‘Well we listened to those survivors,”‘ Rajotte said.
Shore ruled Friday that the settlement, which includes $750 million for the survivors, $50 million for an Indigenous healing foundation and $75 million for legal fees, could go ahead.
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Last October, the federal government said the proposed settlement was for about 20,000 survivors who were moved between 1951 and 1991.
Survivors are each expected to receive between $25,000 and $50,000.
Shore said he will issue his reasons for his ruling in a month or longer.
Lawyer Tony Merchant, whose firm represents some of the victims, said after Friday’s decision that most of the people affected by the ’60s Scoop want to move on after nine years of fighting for compensation.
But Doug Racine, another lawyer who also represents survivors, said the 90-day deadline for opting out of the deal is too short and that anyone who doesn’t opt out will be considered to have accepted it.
Critics argue that accepting the deal could mean waiving the right to sue for sexual and physical abuse that some adoptees experienced.
The clock will start ticking soon, which Racine said doesn’t leave much time for his clients to decide.
“In order to advise your client, you would have to have their social services record. You’d want to determine whether or not when they were taken as a child whether or not it was legal, because if it wasn’t legal, then you want them to opt out because you have a good lawsuit,” Racine explained.
“I would think you’d want a year. I mean, our law firm is having difficulty tracking down the adoption records,” he added.
Opponents say there is a clause in the agreement that if 2,000 people agree to opt out it can be declared void.
Rajotte, who was taken from her community in Saskatchewan when she was a baby and raised by a Manitoba family, said that she’s travelled to reserves across Canada and found many survivors who had no knowledge of the settlement.
She said the government should have mailed information to every First Nation, and that survivors deserve an adjudication process for compensation similar to what residential school survivors received.
“The Liberal government when they got voted in said that they wanted to form a new relationship with us. This is horrible the way they’ve treated us,” Rajotte said.
Racine said his firm is considering an appeal and will be examining options this week.
The deal is also under fire for leaving out Metis survivors. The federal government has argued that Metis weren’t recognized as having Indigenous rights at the time, so Ottawa can’t be held responsible for those children.