The “Sixties Scoop” is a term used to describe a child welfare policy developed and implemented throughout the 1960s that involved apprehending Indigenous children from their communities and placing them into middle-class Euro-Canadian families that were hundreds, sometimes thousands, of miles away from their families. The representation of Métis children within the child welfare system accelerated throughout the 1960s, 1970s, and even into the 1980s.
The practice of removing Métis children from their home and into state care existed long before the 1960s through the residential and day school system. However, throughout the late 1950s these institutions became highly discredited and the child welfare system became the new agent of assimilation and colonization. While the federal government may have been the prime catalyst for the Sixties Scoop, it was the provincial governments that apprehended Métis children.
The legacy of colonialism and the Eurocentric mindset dominated Canadian views of Indigenous people at a subconscious level, often portraying Indigenous people as less worthy and unfit to parent their children. These Euro-Western ideals and values were embedded within Canadian policy, the justice system, the child welfare system and were perpetuated by social workers, administrators, lawyers, government officials, and judges who viewed their everyday practices to be in the best interest of Indigenous children. Indigenous children often were apprehended because of the incongruence between Euro-Western notions, cultural practices and the realities of Indigenous communities; the ideal home for a child needed to be an environment to which society was familiar with: white, middle-class homes in white, middle-class neighbourhoods.
The separation of children away from their families and their placement into foster homes led to the destitution of family. Children were often physically, psychologically, and sexually abused while they were in the care of their non-Métis families. Much like the residential schools, children grew up in an environment that did not foster the growth of parenting or life skills. The forced removal of these children, and the intergenerational trauma, is directly linked to the socio-economic difficulties that face the Métis Nation today.
With the signing of the Canada-Métis Nation Accord in 2017, a new relationship between the Métis Nation and the federal government was forged. The Accord brings a revitalization of the Métis Nation-Crown relationship and with reconciliation in mind, the Accord brought a promising future.
Since signing the Accord, there have been several steps toward reconciliation through the creation of various initiatives. This includes a negotiation of settlement for Métis veterans and advancing settlement for Métis day school survivors. The Accord presents an opportunity to continue to negotiate on a nation-to-nation and government-to-government basis. Through it, the MNC is pursuing a negotiated settlement agreement for Sixties Scoop survivors.
Also in 2017, First Nation and Inuit Sixties Scoop survivors negotiated and finalized a settlement. The agreement set aside $50 million in investment for an independent, charitable foundation for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Sixties Scoop survivors. Additionally, the settlement agreement provides $500 to $750 million in compensation to survivors. Individuals can receive between $25,000 to $50,000 in addition to legal fees. Though, as the agreement was negotiated by First Nation and Inuit representatives, Métis survivors were not included and are not eligible for settlements.
In response to being left out of the agreement, the Métis Nation had to find an alternative way to compensate and advocate for Sixties Scoop survivors. In October 2017, an exchange of letters began with Ministers Bennett and Philpot. As a result of the letters, Minister Bennett agreed to meet with the MNC to discuss reconciliation for Métis survivors. The meeting between Minister Bennett took place on February 28, 2018.
Six (6) engagement sessions took place in March and April 2019, and the MNC received a letter from Martin Reiher, ADM, Resolution and Individual Affairs. The letter responded to the March 19, 2018 Métis Nation Permanent Bilateral Mechanism Leaders meeting that had proposed the beginning of a working group. The group was intended to (1) exchange information and conduct joint research to inform future discussions, and (2) to engage with knowledge holders, effected individuals, communities and leadership. MNC Minister Chartrand responded quickly, supporting the establishment of a working group.
Since then, there has been one meeting with federal officials on this issue that took place in February 2019. The meeting allowed the MNC to raise issues regarding the advancement of a settlement process for Métis Sixties Scoop survivors. The issue of settlement claims from Métis and non-status survivors was a primary concern of the MNC, leading to the development of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The MOU is intended to protect MNC’s responsibilities negotiated with Canada should there be updates or changes to federal policies. Federal officials then determined and informed the MNC that an MOU was not a possibility. They stated it would be an act of contempt against the Court pending the carriage motion decisions pending in the federal court.
In March 2019, motions for carriage by four (4) Métis and non-status Indians actions were held in Vancouver, BC. To protect the interests of the whole of the Métis Nation, the MNC sent letters to Ministers Bennett and Lametti. The letters asked Canada to uphold the nation-to-nation negotiations as outlined in the Canada-Métis Nation Accord. Additionally, they asked the letter to be presented to the Court in the Day Class Action carriage motion to inform the Court of the matters at hand.
The MNC sought advice from Pape, Salter and Teillet, LLP in response to the federal government's refusal to sign an MOU or to negotiate a settlement agreement for Métis Sixties Scoop survivors in the federal court process. In May 2019, a memo of the law firm was received and had set out considerations for the next steps and multiple options for the MNC to proceed.
Also in May 2019, the plaintiff for the Day case was awarded carriage. Actions from plaintiffs Laliberte, McComb, and Ouellet were stayed at this time, with them filing a notice of appeal in June of the same year.
In the Federal Court of Appeal in 2020, the decision to stay the actions from plaintiffs Laliberte, McComb and Ouellet was upheld. Then as opposed to separate lawsuits, in June 2021, claims by Métis and non-status Indian survivors was certified as a National Class Action. Survivors were given until November 2021 to opt out of the class action and continue their own suits or join the Class Action. This left many Métis citizens feeling conflicted and worried their voices would get lost in the case.
Also in 2021, the MNC filed to act as an intervenor in the National Class Action. While the motion was dismissed, the MNC was provided an opportunity to bring a new motion to seek to participate in other steps within the proceeding. Additionally, the MNC has the opportunity to renew the motion at a later date to participate at an appropriate time in the future.
While the motion to act as an intervenor in the National Class Action was dismissed, there are opportunities for the MNC to participate in the future. The MNC will continue to receive updated correspondence and documents as the case proceeds. This allows the MNC to stay up to date on the National Class Action and to plan and adapt to support the Métis Nation while not being directly involved in the case as an intervenor.
Additionally, should settlement discussions begin, the Plaintiffs agree to seek input from the MNC regarding remedies and monetary compensation. This will likely include collaboration throughout the negotiation process to varying degrees depending upon the status of the negotiations. The MNC will have input prior to the reaching of an agreement and will be able to support participants and negotiators according to their needs.
Reconciliation remains important for the MNC and its Governing Members now and will continue to be into the future. Not only in supporting legal action for Sixties Scoop survivors but also through the upholding of culture, traditions and Knowledge Systems of the Métis Nation. Through prioritizing the sustainability of the Métis way of life, collecting stories and understanding the needs of Métis citizens, the MNC and its Governing Members continue to support Sixties Scoop survivors.