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Sixties Scoop Foundation begins consulting child welfare system survivors on mandate

The interim board of the foundation funded by the Sixties Scoop settlement will begin consulting Indigenous people across Canada this weekend on how it can best serve those affected by child welfare removal.

Chief Marcia Brown Martel sings outside the Parliament buildings following a government news conference announcing a compensation package for Indigenous victims of the Sixties Scoop, in Ottawa last year. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

The interim board of the foundation funded by the Sixties Scoop settlement will begin consulting Indigenous people across Canada this weekend on how it can best serve those affected by child welfare removal.

Ten engagement sessions will take place across Canada between September and February 2020. The first takes place in Montreal on Sept. 21.

Conrad Prince is the director of engagement for the Sixties Scoop Survivor Foundation. (Conrad Prince)

“It’s a survivor-led approach to developing the foundation,” said Conrad Prince, director of engagement at the foundation who is also an adoptee and survivor of the Sixties Scoop.

“Survivors never had a space like this in the past where they’re able to come together to discuss their shared experiences, differences, and how they would like to move forward in their healing journey.”

Canada’s $875 million class action settlement agreement with Sixties Scoop survivors set aside $750 million to compensate status First Nations and Inuit children who were removed from their homes and placed with non-Indigenous foster or adoptive parents between 1951 and 1991 and lost their cultural identities as a result. 

It also included $50 million for the establishment of a foundation. An interim board of lead plaintiffs Marcia Brown Martel, Maggie Blue Waters and Sharon Russell, as well as Indigenous child welfare experts and advocates Cindy Blackstock, Jeannine Carriere and Jeffery Wilson were selected in December 2018 to lay the groundwork for its creation.

Engagement sessions

  • Montreal, Sept. 21
  • Winnipeg, Oct. 5
  • Halifax, Nov. 9
  • Toronto, Nov. 16
  • Calgary, Nov. 30
  • Saskatoon, Dec. 7
  • Happy Valley Goose-Bay, NL Jan. 11, 2020
  • Vancouver, Feb. 1, 2020
  • Yellowknife, Feb. 8, 2020
  • Iqaluit, Feb. 15, 2020

In addition to the 10 consultation sessions, Prince said online engagement will also be available starting next month for survivors abroad or those who cannot make it to a session.

“The challenge before us is we’ve been displaced throughout the country and internally, and we don’t know where individuals reside, so having the most flexible process that allows individuals as many options as possible would be the best for survivors to share their voice in this engagement process,” said Prince.

Prince said the engagement sessions are open to all First Nations, Inuit and Métis who have been affected by child welfare removal. They’ll be asked how the foundation can serve survivors in healing and reclamation. Bursaries are available for travel assistance.

“To a certain extent, survivors have a blank canvas to say what they want and need out of this foundation,” said Prince.

“Survivors didn’t have a say in what happened to them in the past, but we do now.”

The feedback gathered will be presented in a final report with recommendations to the interim board and will be made public in the spring.

Concerns about long-term support

Nakuset, executive director of the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal and a Sixties Scoop survivor, said she feels the foundation will have its work cut out for it when it comes to long-term funding.

“I don’t know how long $50 million is going to last between 20,000 survivors. They need to make it sustainable,” said Nakuset, who will be attending Saturday’s engagement session in Montreal.

She said the foundation needs to be reflective of the ongoing support survivors need through their healing journeys. 

“It’s neverending. It’s hard, and when you have children and they’re the age when you were taken away or you have to tell your child about your own experience,” said Nakuset.

“All these things are always in the peripheral and you have to go them, and need support. It’s not a one-fix thing.”

Maya Cousineau Mollen is an Innu poet and Sixties Scoop survivor. (Maya Cousineau Mollen)

Maya Cousineau Mollen said the foundation needs to address francophone adoptees. Cousineau Mollen, who was raised by a Quebec family close to the Innu First Nation of Ekuanitshit in the Côte-Nord region of Quebec, said there’s often a gap between services for First Nations people who speak English and those who speak French.

“I would love to see a bigger support for us to connect with our communities and culture, but also for our communities to understand us,” said Cousineau Mollen. 

“We were raised in different cultures and we’re good support for our people, too. I hope people see that as a good thing, even though it can be painful. What we’ve learned from those experiences, it makes us stronger.”

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