People who survived being taken from their parents and put with non-Indigenous families are wondering why everyone is getting paid except them, says the president of the Sixties Scoop Indigenous Society of Alberta (SSISA).
“Why is it we’re kind of left out?” asked Adam North Peigan from Edmonton.
“Are the survivors really a priority in this (class-action Sixties Scoop) settlement?”
North Peigan said $75 million has already been paid to the lawyers, $50 million to the new healing foundation, and $500 million transferred to Collectiva Class-Action Services for new initial payments to survivors.
But earlier this week it became known those initial payments of $25,000 to more than 12,000 survivors (whose claims were already approved) were on hold after Collectiva, the claims administrator, posted online it couldn’t follow through at this time.
“The whole process has been dragging on for months now,” added North Peigan, who shared his concerns in a letter to the federal court this week.
Originally, no claims were to be paid until Collectiva processed them all and provided a final approved number to the federal government.
More than 34,000 people applied for compensation from the $750-million settlement agreement.
Advocates for survivors and lawyers connected to the case blame the COVID-19 pandemic for upending the settlement – they say it has complicated working conditions for Collectiva, temporarily closed federal and provincial sources for child welfare documents, and created more anxiety for survivors who want their money sooner rather than later.
But Angela Ashawasegai, a survivor based in Ontario, called for patience.
“It’s out of our hands how fast Collectiva will take to complete processing 34,000 applications,” said the head of 60’s Scoop Awareness.
“I object to an early release of monies until all applications are processed. I object to using my award money to survive the COVID pandemic. I object to using the COVID-19 as a reason to place pressure upon Collectiva and the government for an early release of monies and all the other demands being made.”
Ashawasegai said she didn’t like to see survivors divided over when they would receive compensation.
“It’s not easy to please everyone,” she said a statement emailed to APTN.
“I am well aware of the drama surrounding the settlement being delayed but not everyone feels anxious or worried.”
The ’60s Scoop was a wave of adoptions from 1951 into the ‘80s when social workers removed First Nations, Inuit and Metis children from their families and placed them in non-Indigenous homes across Canada and the United States.
The settlement agreement compensates only First Nations and Inuit survivors.
Peigan said his 2,000 members are vulnerable people who are “frustrated and worried” by the delay.
The online post by Collectiva “has caused a lot of uncertainty for survivors across Alberta and Canada and has greatly affected the confidence in Collectiva moving forward,” he said in his letter he shared with APTN.
“SSISA has been inundated with phone calls, emails and messages on social media from survivors with outrage of further delay in the issuance of their compensation.”
He described it as “unjust” that survivors are still awaiting payment.
“The intent of the settlement agreement was for survivors and why is it that survivors are the last to receive any kind of benefit – there is something wrong with this picture!”
SSISA said it shares the request of the 60s Scoop Legacy of Canada advocacy group, which APTN reported on earlier this week, in asking the court to reduce the initial payment to $20,000 from $25,000 with the balance or top-up to come at a later date. And get those cheques out immediately.
“We are confident with the applications processed thus far that sit with Collectiva will allow for an immediate disbursement of $20K to Class Members,” he wrote. “Further, SSISA is requesting along with the balance of the initial payment ($5,000.00) that a top up if it is determined once the eligibility of Class Members is finalized be paid to survivors as well.”
Class counsel and Canada agreed and put a motion to the court that was approved.
Now one of those lawyers told APTN earlier this week he is trying to find another solution to the impasse.
North Peigan said it needs to happen as soon as possible.
“The emotional and mental health of our survivors across Canada, who are dealing with global health crisis coupled with the message from collective that paynments are not being delayed or put on hold, is my concern,” he said in a telephone interview.
“I’m very worried that it’s going to lead to suicidal ideation and even attempts.”