Pressure is mounting on the Canadian government to extend a deadline for Sixties Scoop survivors to apply for inclusion in an $875 million class action settlement.
The claim will pay between 25-50K to an estimated 20,000 survivors.
Collectiva, a third-party claims administrator, has until the end of December to tell the government how many people are eligible for the settlement.
But some survivors could be left out.
Vanessa Desmeules from Battleford, Sask., survived the Sixties Scoop.
She says she filed her claim in July, at least a month before the initial deadline of September 2.
Desmeules says she received a notice of intent to reject her claim two weeks ago.
Collectiva wanted more proof.
“According to social services there’s no records of me being in foster care. They have records of me for four years and after that there’s nothing for, like, ten years,” she said.
The notice gave her 45 days to produce this evidence.
She says she didn’t have a birth certificate from her original family, and her foster parents changed her last name when they adopted her, which she switched back.
These factors made it a struggle to get the required documents. But Desmeules obtained whatever records she could, reaching out to her old schools for report cards, and finally getting a birth certificate at the age of 41.
Nevertheless, she might not meet the deadline and even if she does, Collectiva might find her evidence insufficient.
Desmeules said money isn’t the most important thing.
“It’s about getting people to believe my story. I’ve never been able to prove to people where I come from or who I am,” she said.
Katherine Legrange, who runs a volunteer support group for adoptees, says the government has not given claimants like Vanessa the support they need.
Those dealing with “undue hardships or circumstances beyond their control” were granted a 90 day exception period, which ends in December says Legrange.
“Some folks are still waiting for their letters of eligibility.”
According to Legrange, other applicants also received intention to reject letters or letters asking to verify their Indian status, provide adoption information, or prove that they were adopted from an Indigenous family and placed into a non-Indigenous home.
At times it proves difficult to procure these documents.
Some survivors live overseas or in the United States and some don’t have access to reliable internet connection.
Still others don’t have access to the financial resources and logistical help they need to properly produce and file the appropriate paperwork.
Legrange is working with Leah Gazan, the MP for Legrange’s riding of Winnipeg Centre and a member of Wood Mountain Lakota First Nation, to try to extend this deadline to March 2020.
Gazan brought these concerns to Ottawa.
Seeking an Extension
Gazan stood in the House of Commons and asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau if his government would extend the deadline so no adoptee is left out.
“There are reports of sexual, physical, emotional, cultural, and spiritual abuse at the hands of the adoptive families,” Gazan told the house.
“Mr. Speaker, without stalling payment for those who applied, will they extend the application date?”
In an interview with APTN News, Gazan called this extension “a very small ask given the grotesque and inhuman nature of what occurred during the Scoop.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau however, didn’t answer the question directly.
He acknowledged outstanding claims by other Indigenous people. The settlement applies to First Nations and Inuit, but not Métis and non-status Indians.
“The court approved settlement agreement process has begun to compensate survivors,” Trudeau says.
“The settlement includes a $50 million foundation for healing commemoration, language, and culture. We know there are other claims left unresolved, so we’re working to address harms suffered by other Indigenous children as a result of the Sixties Scoop.”
Gazan says the government isn’t doing enough.
“If this government is truly serious about reconciliation then it needs to do whatever it has to to make sure that they reconcile with those that have been wronged by racist, colonial, paternalistic legislation.”
In response to APTN’s questions the office of Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, reiterated Prime Minister Trudeau’s comments, but did not say whether they will extend the deadline.