Some Métis who were adopted as children into non-Indigenous families say they will fight for a settlement like the one the federal government announced last week with First Nations and Inuit people who were raised in similar circumstances.
The government has agreed to settle a number of outstanding suits with victims of the Sixties Scoop, offering up to $50,000 to each person who lost their Indigenous culture and identity as a result of being removed from their homes and their communities in the 1960s, 70s and 80s.
But the Métis will not share that money.
“I am very disappointed that an inclusive agreement couldn’t be reached so that this historic moment meant something to all Sixties Scoop survivors,” Duane Morrisseau-Beck, a co-founder of a group called the National Indigenous Survivors of Child Welfare Network, told a news conference on Tuesday.
“After reading the agreement, I began to feel the dark feeling in the pit of my stomach. Was it true? Had they left out my nation – the Métis?” Mr. Morrriseau-Beck said. “I have been inundated with Facebook postings and inbox messages asking why we’re not included, and I don’t have an answer to that question.”
Mr. Morrisseau-Beck was taken from his mother at birth and, as with thousands of other Métis children in the Prairies, adopted into a Caucasian household through a program called Adopt Indian Métis (AIM), which was run by the provinces with the help of federal advertising dollars.
“I was told at a very young age that I was adopted and that’s where the culture shock happened,” Mr. Morrisseau-Beck said. “I went through a very dark period for many, many years feeling very disconnected and not really feeling like I fit in anywhere.”
The federal government agreed to settle a majority of the 18 Sixties Scoop lawsuits launched across the country over the past decade after an Ontario judge ruled in February that Canada had failed in its duty of care toward the victims in that province.
In the case of the Métis, Ottawa argues that the provinces are also to blame for the harms that were done.
Between the 1960s and the 90s, the Métis and non-status Indians were not recognized by the federal government as being holders of Indigenous rights, so the federal government says it had no role in putting Métis children in care.
That does not mean Ottawa has no culpability, said a spokesman for Carolyn Bennett, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations. But, he said, the federal government cannot offer to settle the Métis suits unilaterally, the provinces need to be at the table and that will happen during a second phase of negotiations.
Tony Merchant, a lawyer who is fighting Sixties Scoop lawsuits on behalf of Métis people and non-status Indians, said the suits will continue and, given the federal position, they will likely end up in court because “not a single province has shown any indication to pay compensation of any kind.”
Mr. Morrisseau-Beck said his adoption into a non-Indigenous family led him down “a very dangerous path” into addictions and battles with the justice system. He is HIV positive, has diabetes and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Mr. Morriseau-Beck’s birth mother was with his biological father when he was born, but they were unemployed and living with his paternal grandparents. When he reconnected with his mother in his mid-20s, she told him that both she and his grandparents had fought to keep him.
He said the adoption records say his mother gave him up for adoption.
“But my mother adamantly states that she did not sign any documentation,” Mr. Morrisseau-Beck said. “So we are thinking that there was some interesting stuff that was going on behind the scenes.”
Mr. Merchant said social-welfare officials of the day believed Indigenous children would have better lives if they were adopted into non-Indigenous homes, and as a result, many children – especially boys, who were considered to be more adoptable than girls – were removed from their families.
“Canada has recognized its particular responsibility for Indians and the Inuit, and they should be commended for doing that,” he said. But “where does that leave Métis and non-status Indians?”Report Typo/Error