The 60s Scoop settlement agreement is on hold unless lawyers agree to “de-link” their fees from the money destined for thousands of survivors.
Ontario Justice Edward Belobaba ruled Wednesday the federal government’s settlement with survivors of the 60s Scoop can proceed, but that the fees involving lawyers in the process were “unreasonable” and have to be re-negotiated.
“I am now satisfied that given the risks of further litigation, a $25,000 to $50,000 payment for the loss of one’s Indigenous cultural identity is fair and reasonable and should be approved,” wrote Belobaba. “But not the payment of $75,000,000 for legal fees. I am not satisfied that $75 million for legal fees is anywhere close to reasonable.”
Read Belobaba’s ruling here: Ontario ruling
The federal government had negotiated a settlement worth up to $875 million.
It was divided between survivors who were to receive up to $750 million (capped at $50,000 per survivor), $50 million for a national memorial foundation and then lawyers involved in the case would divvy up at a separate pot of $75 million.
According to the parties involved, it is estimated 22,400 Indigenous children nation-wide were “scooped” from their homes and placed with non-Indigenous foster or adoptive parents over the 40-year period covered by the settlement.
Belobaba estimates that just under half of the eligible claimants, about 10,000 claimants, will apply for compensation.
If this holds true, the payment rate will look like this:
-10,000 claimants will receive the maximum of $50,000.
-15,000 claimants, the payment will fall to $33,333.
-20,000 to 30,000 claimants, the individual payment will be $25,000.
The issue Belobaba has with the lawyer’s fee settlement involves the risk some law firms took on when they accepted the case.
The law firm who took on the Brown case inherited enormous risk that almost saw the small family law firm close according to one of the lawyers. While in another case, very little work had been done for their clients.
Belobaba’s ruling threatens to kill the settlement agreement and send the parties back to the negotiating table, or the courts through a civil suit.
Now it’s up to the lawyers to decide where the case goes.
But according to Belobaba, some parties have already stated that it’s time for survivors to get paid.
“Class counsel in Brown have agreed to de-link the legal fees provision from the rest of the Settlement Agreement. I am confident that class counsel in Riddle will agree to do likewise and will not jeopardize the entire Agreement because a reasonable legal fees provision remains to be negotiated,” Belobaba wrote.
More to come.