Raised by an affluent family in New Jersey, Les Ainspac says life didn’t make sense, until he found his roots in Shoal Lake First Nation. Ainspac was among the tens of thousands of First Nations children taken into care and placed with non-indigenous families as a part of the Sixties Scoop.
Growing up near Princeton, New Jersey, he recounts memories of his adoptive family receiving a gift (of peanuts!) from former President Jimmy Carter, and hosting the likes of Muhammad Ali. Still, despite his affluent upbringing, Ainspac says he struggled with dreams and images he could never quite understand.
"Nobody could explain to me what the dreams meant, and I was told to ignore it," Ainspac recalled.
So, after graduating from high school, he went to search for his roots, and eventually found them as a member of Iskatewizaagegan First Nation, where today he's a member of the Midewiwin society and a men's traditional powwow dancer.
"When I came back here, the dreams kicked in, and that's when I started dancing."
Ainspac is among the tens of thousands of individuals expected to file claims following the settlement of a class action lawsuit on behalf of victims of the Sixties Scoop. For 40 years, between 1951 and 1991, First Nations children were taken into care and placed with non-Indigenous parents, where they weren't raised in accordance with their cultural traditions and they weren't taught their traditional languages.
Melanie Vincent is the manager for the Sixties Scoop claims centre in Quebec City, and she says they've already received 5,000 claims.
"We've had lots of calls from people all over the country, even in the United States, because some of the people eligible lived abroad," she noted.
Before the deadline of August 30, 2019, Vincent expects to receive a total of 20,000 to 30,000 claims in total. They are expected to divide $875 million awarded by the courts, as part of the class action settlement agreement.
Once settled, Vincent says individual claims are expected to be worth in the range of $20,000 to $50,000. The government added $75-million for lawyer fees and $50-million will go into a healing fund.
The Sixties Scoop agreement follows the $1.9 billion settlement agreement reached with residential school survivors, as well as a settlement with former day-school students worth at least $200 million. Douglas Lennox was one of the lawyers, who helped fight the Sixties Scoop class action, and he talks about the case.
"This remains a real issue around the world, and Canada is a country that is trying to make sure that this type of child and family disjointment doesn't happen again," he said, during a recent interview.
"It's incredibly disruptive and terrifying for little kids, some of whom were shipped all around the world. One of my clients was shipped to Scotland, and she speaks today with a Scottish accent," Lennox noted.
Not all the survivors have been able to adapt. Another survivor of the Sixties Scoop was Sonya Murray of Kenora, who has written openly about her experience.
While she eventually found her two sisters and had a reunion with them two years ago, she continued to struggle. Sadly, Murray passed away earlier this year, before seeing a settlement.
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