The Métis National Council is stressing urgency as it works to negotiate a settlement for Métis survivors of the Sixties Scoop before the November federal election.
Métis Nation Governing Members are holding six engagement sessions over the next two months for Métis survivors of the Sixties Scoop. Engagement sessions started Friday in Swan River, Man., and will come to Saskatoon from April 5-7. The last scheduled engagement is set for April 26-28 in Richmond, B.C.
According to a press release, the engagement sessions will help inform the federal government in addressing the legacy of the Sixties Scoop on the Métis and to reconcile its harmful effects.
“ At each session, Métis Sixties Scoop survivors and their families will be hosted in a safe, respectful, culturally-based environment,” the Métis National Council said.
“It is an opportunity for survivors to meet with other survivors and to access support and counselling if required.”
The engagement sessions are being held as a follow-up to the national Symposium on Métis Sixties Scoop Survivors, held in Winnipeg from Oct. 19-21.
The Sixties Scoop is the term given to programs enacted by various governments to find homes for Indigenous children in care, practise that began in the 1950s and continued, in some cases, until 1991.
In Saskatchewan, the provincial and federal governments created the Adopt Indian Métis program (AIM), which sought to alleviate the massive increase in Indigenous kids in care.
According to CBC, a 1975 report by the director of AIM reveals little resistance was shown from the courts to removing children from their families.
“Essentially, if the evidence existed that the child was being neglected and if the parents did not agree with our assessment, we could simply take the matter to court and, I believe, in most of the situations, win,” it said.
Data shows that the Indigenous children made up a disproportionate number of kids in care. Critics say that a number of the kids taken into care were decisions made without acknowledging cultural differences and were steeped in anti-Indigenous sentiments.
The federal government describes the Sixties Scoop as a “dark and painful” chapter of the nation’s history. The federal government was sued for failing to protect children’s Indigenous identity when they were placed in non-Indigenous adoptive or foster homes.
The settlement from those class-action suits did not include Métis or Non-Status survivors. Instead, the federal government intends to resolve those claims through litigation.
David Chartrand, Métis National Council vice-president and minister responsible for the Sixties Scoop Settlement was at the Winnipeg symposium. He spoke of the emotion shared by some of the survivors at that event.
“I stood there and I don’t know how many times I cried at the podium,” he said in a phone interview Tuesday.
“I’ve chaired many meetings in my time in politics, now going on 35, 40 years, and I could not restrain myself from not getting so caught up in the stories and the horror of what happened to them — the sexual, physical and mental abuse, and just the outright destruction of their very soul.
“It’s such a sad day in our Canadian history when we reflect back on it.”
Chartrand said that the Métis Nation is hoping to reach a settlement through a negotiated settlement, capitalizing on the federal government’s promise of a nation-to-nation relationship. He said the Métis council does not want to pursue lengthy, costly litigation.
‘One of the things we want to make very clear is that (we) will not be charging a penny for what we’re doing,” Chartrand said.
‘We made it very clear to Canada that we don’t expect any remuneration from our side. We want everything to go directly to the survivors because that’s who matters here. We need to do everything we can in our power to do what’s right and make sure these people get it as quickly as possible so we can actually begin the healing process they’re been waiting for for so long.”
That’s why, Chartrand said, the Métis Nation is holding the consultations. It wants to hear from survivors what they expect in a negotiated settlement.
“The key question we ask our survivors is what’s justice to you, or what is it going to look like if we get a negotiated settlement,” he said.
“Some of the things that are coming from our survivors are restitution because we’ve seen restitution being given to others. But even an apology of why were we treated like less than animals. Why were we treated as commodities/ Why were they attempting to destroy us? (Survivors) want them to tell us that they’re sorry that they destroyed our lives. And they’re also looking for healing programs.”
A focus of the Métis National Council is to get this done as soon as possible so negotiations can begin. Chartrand doesn’t trust that a different government would follow through with the Liberals’ promise to negotiate a settlement. In fact, he’s unsure of the other parties’ commitment to reconciliation.
“We want to make sure we start the process of negotiation as quickly as possible,” Chartrand said, adding that advocates have pushed for an apology in the past, but haven’t always been met with receptive governments.
Despite the urgency, Chartrand wants to make sure consultations with survivors are done appropriately.
“We’re not just going to stop at six (hearings),” he said.
“We’re going to continue them as we need them. If there is (a group) saying we need to be heard, that there’s a bunch of us in a particular area that didn’t have a chance to make 9a hearing), then we’ll have another one.
“I want many voices heard and clearly inputted into the messaging. I want to hear from everybody as much as I can.”