(’60s Scoop survivors are disappointed after early payments put on hold. APTN file)
Problems associated with the infectious coronavirus disease have put ’60s Scoop survivors’ early compensation payments on hold.
“The legal system is not built for pandemics,” said supervising lawyer Doug Lennox Monday.
“We are all adapting as best we can. I understand people are concerned.”
The update was shared online by Collectiva, the administrator in charge of distributing the Trudeau government’s $750-million settlement cash.
Eligible survivors of the former adoption-foster care program were to receive a minimum of $25,000 each once all claims were approved. Lennox said 34,767 people applied for compensation before the deadline.
Fearing a long delay, the 60s Scoop Legacy of Canada wrote to the federal court in March suggesting it make initial payments to the 12,000 survivors already approved instead of waiting for the whole group.
Class counsel and Canada agreed and put forward a joint motion, which a judge okayed.
(Doug Lennox is one of the lawyers who negotiated the class-action settlement agreement. APTN file)
But then the virus hit and government records were no longer readily available.
“That order hasn’t worked the way we would have liked,” Lennox said from Toronto.
“Collectiva needed time to reorganize (because they) weren’t set up to work remotely.”
As well, the records Collectiva needed from provincial and territorial governments to validate claims became unavailable due to pandemic protocols.
“If a document is in an archive we can’t go look at it due to social distancing,” Lennox added.
“Social distancing has created some real problems.”
(Katherine Legrange is head of the non-profit 60s Scoop Legacy. APTN file)
The setback has knocked survivors for a loop, said Katherine Legrange, the head of the 60s Scoop Legacy of Canada advocacy group.
“People are fighting with each other hardcore,” she said Monday.
“Some say to wait; some say they need money now.”
Survivors express a range of emotions in a new letter to the federal court appealing for another solution.
“As you can imagine, class members are distraught and frustrated by the repeated delays in this legal proceeding,” Legrange wrote in the April 27 letter she shared with APTN News.
“The intent of the March 27th order was to help the survivors during the COVID-19 crisis; many survivors/adoptees do not qualify for other forms of compensation.We have already waited two and a half years since the announcement of the settlement, and would like to see this settlement move forward.”
(Carolyn Bennett is the federal minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations. APTN file)
A statement from the office of Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett acknowledged the setback.
“We want to make sure that those impacted and who are part of this class receive their settlement payment. However, as a result of COVID-19, timelines to respond to incomplete applications have been suspended and validation of applications have been delayed.
“Regrettably, this has resulted in a delay in survivors receiving compensation.”
Bennett’s office noted Canada has transferred $500 million to Collectiva “to help ensure timely payments once the process resumes.”
Lennox confirmed no one had been paid yet. But he said the money was in the bank and collecting interest, which is generating additional funds for the healing foundation.
He also said he would be heading back to court with a new plan.
“I understand, I hear them; believe me, I am working on a plan to fix this,” he said, noting survivors still wouldn’t have received cheques if the original settlement schedule had been followed.
“We’re hearing people’s concern…The legal system is slow but we will get to the right result.”
Bennett offered the settlement in 2018 to compensate thousands of First Nation and Inuit men and women who, as children and infants, were apprehended from their homes and placed with non-Indigenous families beginning in 1960.
In her latest letter, Legrange suggests, among other things, the March 27 order be amended or a new order issued to lower the initial payments to $20,000 instead of $25,000 – with the balance to come later. And cheques to be sent immediately or before May 31.
Update: This story has been updated to clarify it was class counsel that put forward a motion that was approved to make initial payments.
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