A judge appointed as part of the Sixties Scoop Settlement Agreement has extended the December deadline for Collectiva – a class-action claims assessor working on the settlement – to give the federal government its data on how many people are eligible for payment.
“There have been so many more claims that they’re just going to need more time,” Douglas Lennox, a class-action attorney with Klein Lawyers LLP, tells APTN News.
The new deadline is “individual specific,” says Lennox, and only applies to those who received a letter notifying them of Collectiva’s intent to reject their claim.
Each claimant has 45 days from the letter’s date to produce proof of eligibility for the settlement.
The end of November was the cutoff for new claims, and this remains the case.
Lennox’s firm was one of four – along with Koskie Minsky, Merchant Law, and Wilson-Christen – that represented adoptees in the lawsuit. He says his firm still works closely with Collectiva to ensure claims are processed fair.
Survivors, however, express frustration about the claims administration process.
APTN reached out to Collectiva but it forwarded our inquiry to Lennox.
We contacted Collectiva again to speak with a company representative, who issued the following email response.
“Claims Administrators do not give interviews for the same reasons that judges do not give interviews, that is, to preserve impartiality and independence.
“Therefore given our status as court appointee we must decline your request for an interview.”
‘45 days is not enough’
Once all remaining 45-day individual specific deadlines expire Collectiva will have what it needs to tell the government how many survivors are eligible for their share of a $750-million payout. The federal government made $875 million available, but $50 million goes to a new healing foundation and $75 million for lawyer fees.
The Sixties Scoop settlement applies to status-Indians that the government removed, or scooped, from Indigenous parents and placed into long-term care with non-Indigenous families.
“We know that there are other claims that remain unresolved,” a government spokesperson says in an email statement.
Lennox says Collectiva received 33,000 applications.
“Many thousands” were approved. Some were rejected and Collectiva asked others for more evidence.
“People were panicking that they were going to miss the deadline” scheduled for the end of December, says Lennox.
A couple weeks ago an exceptions committee overseen by a judge exercised its authority to extend Collectiva’s deadline.
“The claims assessor is processing claims but it wants to make sure that everybody has enough time,” says Lennox.
But Peter Van Name, Mikisew Cree from Fort Chipewyan, Alta., says there hasn’t been enough time for survivors – some of whom may be transient, homeless, or lacking education and resources – to avail themselves of legal advice or navigate the complicated labyrinth of federal and provincial records.
“These people, they’re lost,” the 48-year-old tells APTN.
“They don’t understand how to do this. They need people to actually stand up and do it for them. I’ve had members where they asked me to do the work for them, or point them in a direction, or get my court worker to help them.”
“It’s sad, man. I think we need more time. Forty-five days is not enough.”
Van Name made news last year when he opposed the settlement.
But Lennox says Collectiva is doing everything it can.
“The claims assessor does very much want to find the records for people,” he says. “You just have to give them more information, or the person needs to call a lawyer and then the lawyer can help them find the information.”
The notice of intent to reject states failure to provide extra proof could lead to official rejection.
“You must send the information or documents to the Claims Administrator, Collectiva within 45-days from the date of this letter. Failure to do so within the 45 day [sic.] timeline may result in an Official Rejection,” it reads.
For its part, the government’s statement conflicts with the language of the notice.
A spokesperson tells APTN that “class members were not required to provide documentation confirming they were adopted, became Crown wards or were in long term care during the class period.”
APTN reached out to again to the office of the minister of Crown-Indigenous relations, which issued the following statement.
“Our government recognizes that the application process for the Sixties Scoop Settlement may be re-traumatizing for many survivors. That is why we took substantial steps to assist and support survivors throughout. In collaboration with the First Nations Partnership, Collectiva travelled across Canada to provide help and guidance to class members in preparing their claims forms,” wrote Jane Deeks, a spokesperson for the department. “Fifty-five information sessions were held between December 2018 and August 2019. The Hope for Wellness Help Line is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to offer culturally competent counselling and crisis intervention.
“We understand that many applicants who received notices of intent to reject may need additional time and assistance to provide documentation. Collectiva is working to accommodate these individuals. Class counsel is available, at no cost to survivors, to answer questions or provide advice to survivors.”
‘It’s a call centre.’
Donald Guerin, 54, is a status Sixties Scoop survivor. He says he was born May 4, 1965, at Lachine Hospital in Montreal.
Soon after his birth, Guerin was taken from his mother off Kahnawake Mohawk Territory, Que. He says he then lived with a non-Indigenous French family. His mother regained custody of him a little over five years of age.
“The loss of language right there – the damage was done,” he says of those five years.
In a phone interview, he says he can’t recall whether he was made a Crown ward, adopted, or placed into foster care. Nor does he remember where he lived before returning to his mother.
He thinks it was foster care, which could disqualify him from eligibility.
If he resided in foster care past the statutory limits under 1950’s Quebec law he should have been made a Crown ward. But this is another complicated issue that would require further legal consultation – and could prove difficult in 45 days.
Guerin received a notice of intent to reject his claim, based on the above concern.
He got the letter on Nov.18.
But it was dated Nov. 12, giving him only 39 days to find proof.
Without any leads to look for more evidence, Guerin says his brother wrote up a written account of the adoption. He doesn’t know if Collectiva will accept it.
Guerin says he went to Collectiva’s office in June to personally hand in his application.
“I walk down there. And it’s basically – people got to know this – Collectiva, it’s a call centre,” he says.
“And when I went in there – nobody goes there in person – I got to see the process.”
Lennox says Collectiva reached out to “dozens” of Indigenous communities through outreach efforts approved and supervised by the court when the settlement was announced. He says these efforts “helped many” but admits not all fit neatly into the legal categories outlined in the settlement.