A newly formed Saskatchewan advocacy group wants Indigenous people throughout the province who were placed in foster or adoptive homes to join and make their voices heard.
An ad hoc group of about 25 Indigenous former foster children and adoptees from around the province met in Saskatoon this week to begin the process of incorporating as a non-profit society.
Robert Doucette and Melissa Hendryk were chosen as co-chairs of a seven-person board that will lead the establishment of the group, which aims to represent their shared interests to the federal and provincial government.
The group is concerned that an agreement in principle, announced in October by Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett, was arrived at without participation of the people it is intended to compensate, Doucette said.
“The amount and other things are being decided without any input from the actual survivors and claimants to these actions … They want to know how this all happened,” said Doucette, a former foster child and past president of the Metis Nation-Saskatchewan.
“The other thing people are very concerned about is the fact the Metis and non-status (First Nations) have been left out of the agreement in principle,” he said.
The agreement in principle offers up to $750 million to First Nations and Inuit people who were made wards of the government and placed in foster or adoptive homes, usually with non-Indigenous parents, between 1951 and 1991. As well, $50 million is offered for a healing foundation.
Metis and non-status First Nations people were as negatively affected by the child removal system as Inuit and status First Nations people, and they are equally entitled to be compensated by the Government of Canada, Doucette said.
Members are also concerned that people may be rushing to sign up with lawyers before it’s clear whether that expense will be necessary to access the compensation.
The group received guidance from Colleen Cardinal and Duane Morriseau-Beck of the National Indigenous Survivors of Child Welfare Network and Sharon Gladue-Paskimin and Adam North-Peigan of the Sixties Scoop Indigenous Society of Alberta.
The group hopes all status and non-status First Nations, Metis and Inuit survivors from all over the province will join the society to create a truly representative group with a unified voice.
“It will also ensure that all the people who have gone through so much trauma in their life will know they’re not alone … It hasn’t been easy,” Doucette said.
The group has no email address or phone number yet, so the best way to contact them is on the Sixties Scoop Indigenous Society of Saskatchewan Facebook group.