Home NEWS ‘It’s a sham’: survivors blast Federal Court hearing into $875M Sixties Scoop settlement

‘It’s a sham’: survivors blast Federal Court hearing into $875M Sixties Scoop settlement

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A Federal Court hearing into the $875-million Sixties Scoop settlement is disrespectful, offensive and a “sham,” say some of the survivors who are in Saskatoon to testify.

They say they’ll be back today, but aren’t hopeful.

“This is just furthering the injustice. Why are we even here?” White Bear First Nation member Anna Parent told CBC News after the first day of hearings in a hotel ballroom wrapped up Thursday at around 7 p.m. local time.

“Everyone is offended. It’s a sham.”

From the late 1950s through the 1980s, thousands of First Nations and Métis children were apprehended by child welfare authorities and placed in non-Indigenous care, in what has become known as the Sixties Scoop.

More than 100 survivors from across Canada, as well as dozens of lawyers, government officials and security officers, hope to testify at the two-day hearing. It was moved from the courthouse to a hotel to accommodate the large crowds. An unknown number of people are also hoping to testify by video from other cities.

Survivors came from across Canada

Some survivors support the proposed settlement negotiated last year. It includes $750 million for the estimated 20,000 survivors themselves, $50 million for a foundation and $75 million for lawyers’ fees.

They hope the money, the services and the acknowledgement of wrongdoing will help survivors and their families heal. Others say the deal is flawed but it’s the best option available.

Leticia Racine, a survivor, opposes the $875-million settlement agreement. (Jason Warick/CBC)

For opponents, the maximum $50,000 payment per survivor is not nearly enough to address the profound damage caused. They also say the lawyers’ fees are too high. Many also note First Nations and Inuit claimants were included, but Metis survivors were not.

It now seems the process, rather than the agreement itself, that is causing the most anger.

As the hearing progressed Thursday, survivors grew increasingly frustrated. From the start, some said the security “overkill,” which included multiple units of armed police, undercover officers and other security, was intimidating and unnecessary.

The hearing started more than 30 minutes late. With survivors sitting in the gallery, many of them teary or clutching handwritten notes, two lawyers and Judge Michel Shore spoke until the lunch break.

Once the afternoon session began, survivors were asked to testify. Shore said they would all be heard and their voices mattered.

‘Your suffering is recognized’

“Your suffering is recognized,” Shore said, followed by loud applause. He then said survivors would be restricted to a maximum of three minutes at the podium.

Many survivors and their lawyers objected. Saskatoon lawyer Doug Racine said his clients have been waiting years to tell their stories, and asked for 10 minutes for each survivor.

Shore rejected the request, saying repeatedly that this was a Federal Court hearing only about the settlement.

Survivors Robert Doucette, left, and Perry Boyko are critical of the Sixties Scoop settlement agreement, but also the way the Federal Court hearing is being conducted. (Jason Warick/CBC)

After a 15-minute break, Shore warned survivors that their stories will be heard only if the deal is approved and the foundation is created to collect them. If the deal is rejected, “it goes back to the courts for years,” he said.

Parent, who now lives in Saskatoon, said she couldn’t believe what she was hearing.

‘We were all rushed.’

“We had to sit and listen the whole morning listening to attorneys and we got three minutes?” she said.

“He interrupted our elders. We were all rushed. Many people were re-traumatized.”

Other survivors, such as Perry Boyko, Robert Doucette and Leticia Racine, echoed the criticisms.

Parent was taken from her mother in 1959 and raised in a white family in southern Saskatchewan.

“They hated Indians, so I hated myself. That was the attitude at the time, though,” she said.

Parent finally met her grandmother at age 18, but didn’t meet her birth mother until 2003 at age 45. According to Parent, she was seized by government officials from her grandparents’ care while her mother had gone off to take job training.

Other survivors had similar stories. They said they hoped testifying would honour their family and help them heal, but the opposite has occurred.

The hearing is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. in Saskatoon. Shore said Thursday that the court will sit as late into the night as it takes to hear everyone.

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