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Sixties Scoop survivors lament lack of support during compensation application process

Shayne Metraux, a Sixties Scoop adoptee who grew up in Winnipeg, has filled out the application for compensation but says he has been triggered by the personal experience option.

Shayne Metraux was adopted when he was a baby. Without any supports around him, he says he has had difficulties finishing the application for compensation. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Shayne Metraux started working on his Sixties Scoop compensation application months ago. He got through most of the application easily, but has struggled to finish filling out the required paperwork.

“It’s an optional part, but it also asks how has it impacted your life, and that’s the part where I’m having difficulties,”  he said.

“I’ve written a bit, but it’s not easy.”

Metraux isn’t alone. Others have also struggled to share their stories on the application, leaving some to question why the federal government hasn’t offered some form of emotional or mental health support as part of the process.

“We’re hearing that there’s a lot of trouble applying online,” said Katherine Legrange, the founder of a group called Sixties Scoop Legacy of Canada, which now has more than 1,200 members.

A Sixties Scoop survivor herself, Legrange said she’s been hearing from people who have been triggered by the application, which invites people to reflect on the trauma they’ve experienced.

“The healing foundation is just starting to form,” she said, “and it hasn’t really mobilized in terms of linking people up with the community health or mental health supports from their area.”

Katherine Legrange, right, would like to see Sixties Scoop survivors like herself and Jeannie Red Eagle, left, given the opportunity to share their experiences in a respectful and culturally appropriate manner. (Lenard Monkman/CBC)

Despite the lack of supports, Metraux has written a couple of paragraphs about his personal experience and said he planned to finish the application before Friday’s deadline.

“I think that it’s important for people to realize … how that actually has impacted people, and it’s not as simple or as straightforward as people think,” he said.

The compensation flows from an $875-million class action settlement agreement with the federal government, which 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.

Adoption took three hours

Metraux’s biological family is from Norway House Cree Nation. He is one of eight children and was adopted in 1979 by a white family when he was only three months old.

He was adopted by a wealthy couple who had just arrived from Europe and the process of adoption only took three hours, he said.

“Why they adopted me? I don’t even know, because my [adopted] father seems to be very racist against Indians,” said Metraux.

He grew up hearing from his adopted dad about how lucky he was to be adopted, and also hearing that his mother was a prostitute.

“When I found my [biological] mother, he was very upset … he was hoping that wouldn’t happen because my mom is Native.”

Metraux is now 40 years old. He lived with his adoptive parents for the first 12 years of his life, becoming a temporary ward of Child and Family Services when he moved out of his adopted home.  

After a few years in care, he slipped through the cracks in the system, he said.

The application for compensation brings up traumatic experiences, but he still intended to finish it, even if he couldn’t fully write out the difficulties he lived with.

“People need to recognize that, whatever amount of compensation that they’re giving us … I think it’s nothing [compared to what we’ve been through],” said Metraux.

Survivors won’t get more money for sharing

Legrange said the amount of settlement money applicants will receive doesn’t depend on them sharing their adoption experiences.

“A lot of people are struggling to share their stories and what we’ve been saying is that in that application, that part is really optional, and there’s no obligation to share any kind of details or abuse that people went through.”

Like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Legrange would like to see Sixties Scoop survivors given the same opportunity to share their stories, as long as it’s done in a respectful and culturally appropriate environment.

She plans to host a healing event for Winnipeg Sixties Scoop survivors on Sept. 25.

Supports and possible extension

In an emailed response to the CBC, the federal government said the application process is being handled by a third party, Collectiva. 

Anyone experiencing difficulties with the application can call the 24-hour Hope for Wellness Help Line at 1-855-242-3310 or connect with a counsellor in an online chat at hopeforwellness.ca.

Mental health counselling services are also available through Indigenous Services Canada’s non-insured health benefits program.

There is no indication whether the application deadline will be extended, but the settlement agreement has a grace period for applications made between Aug. 31 and Nov. 28. Applications will be considered by Collectiva, based on whether a person has disabilities or if the application was delayed by undue hardship or exceptional circumstances.

For more information, applicants can reach out to Collectiva by email to sixtiesscoop@collectiva.ca or by phone at 1-844-287-4270.

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