$750M for '60s Scoop survivors to address 'dark and painful chapter'
Published Friday, October 6, 2017 9:41AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, October 6, 2017 8:53PM EDT
The federal government will pay hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation to an estimated 20,000 Indigenous children taken from their families and placed in non-Indigenous homes during a dark chapter of Canadian history known as the ‘60s Scoop.
On Friday, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett announced the agreement in principle that will see up to $750 million in compensation given to status Indians and Inuit displaced by the “misguided” policy.
The minister held back tears as she stood alongside survivors of the ‘60s Scoop at the press conference in Ottawa.
"Their stories are heartbreaking," Bennett said. "They talked of their identity being stolen. They talked about not really feeling that you belong anywhere because people have been moved so often or that they didn't really have a home."
“Language and culture, apology, healing -- these are essential elements to begin to right the wrongs of this dark and painful chapter.”
Thousands of Indigenous children were taken from their families and placed in non-Indigenous households between 1964 and 1985. The settlement is intended to resolve a number of lawsuits that accused the federal government of robbing Indigenous children of their cultural identity.
Beaverhouse First Nation Chief Marcia Brown Martel, a ‘60s Scoop survivor who took the government to court over the issue, is optimistic about the deal.
"I have great hope that because we've reached this plateau that this again will never, ever happen in Canada again," Brown Martel said as she stood beside Bennett.
But Brown Martel said an ongoing “millennium scoop” continues to cause harm to Indigenous children in the child welfare system.
"They call it 'in care' but it adds a risk factor for them. Therefore, one must stop using that term ... they're not in care. They're away from their communities ... our children need to come home.”
Bennett agreed that an “overhaul” of the system is necessary and that too many Indigenous children are still taken away from their communities.
"We want that overhaul to happen so that we a system of the rights and well-being of Indigenous children and youth to be raised in their language and culture and not have this harm done that was done to these courageous people," she said.
Ottawa pledged another $50 million for a foundation aimed at helping Indigenous families heal and $75 million for legal fees.
The minister acknowledged the payout is a “first step” and does not put the issue to rest.
“This does not close the chapter on the ‘60s Scoop. There is more work to be done to address the harm suffered by other Indigenous children during this period,” Bennett said.
The Ontario Superior Court found that the government was liable for harm caused by the ‘60s Scoop in a February ruling. The class action suit, which Brown Martel took on in 2009 as the representative plaintiff, sought $1.3 billion for victims of the Ontario scoop.
Bennett added that provincial and territorial governments continue to work toward addressing their own litigation.
With files from The Canadian Press