Sixties Scoop Abuse - Options for Survivors Beyond the Class Action

Child holds hand-drawn picture of house and family.

Every adoption story begins with loss. Separation from a first family, whether through a voluntary adoption arrangement or a forced removal, is often an important moment in an adoptee’s life that may significantly influence how they understand themselves and see the world.

In many cases adoptive parents and families are able to provide love, security and safety that all children need as they grow. Increasingly, and as a direct result of work done by generations of older adoptees who experienced trauma related to closed adoptions, openness and contact between adoptive families and first families are giving adoptees the ability to better understand their unique stories, heritage, and connection to relatives.

Tragically, older adoptees who were not given the opportunity to fully understand their history, have experienced not only the loss of individual relationships with first families, but also relationships with cultural communities that may be integral to their sense of self.

This scenario is the case with “Sixties Scoop” survivors. Between 1951 and 1991, tens of thousands of Indigenous children (First Nations and Inuit) were removed from their families, taken into care and placed with non-Indigenous parents. In their adoptive homes, they were not raised in accordance with their cultural traditions, able to learn their traditional languages, or taught to be proud of their Indigeneity.

One of the darkest and most shameful chapters in Canadian history resulted in a class action lawsuit and settlement that brought a sense of at least some closure to people affected by these harmful acts. However, the compensation these claimants received was only linked to one component of their loss - the loss of cultural identity. Any abuse these survivors faced while in the care of their adoptive families was not addressed by this lawsuit.

In this blog post, I highlight recent efforts to help Sixties Scoop survivors who experienced physical, emotional, or sexual abuse make claims for compensation against their abusers. It’s important for these survivors to know that, even if they were part of the class action settlement, they may be eligible to receive additional compensation (and closure) by coming forward.

An Awareness Campaign.

Jellinek Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers is proud of our involvement in efforts to identify and help Sixties Scoop abuse survivors - but we are not the driving force behind this initiative. That role belongs to an amazing nehiyaw iskwew (plains Cree woman) and Sixties Scoop survivor named Colleen Hele-Cardinal. Colleen is originally from Saddle Lake First Nation, Alberta but adopted and raised in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario. As co-founder of the Sixties Scoop Network, Colleen’s tireless work on behalf of survivors has helped this group immeasurably.

Not all people who took part in the class action emerged from the experience feeling fully heard and many others found communication about their legal rights and options was lacking. When Colleen contacted our firm to ask if we could assist with additional claims by Sixties Scoop survivors, we were honoured to oblige. Although some of the survivors Colleen identified as potential claimants were initially reluctant to come forward - as is common among survivors of abuse - we soon developed a format that helped to facilitate discussions.

To help with this, we started hosting town hall events. Sixties Scoop survivors interested in learning about filing claims for abuse and neglect were able to be part of a group where they could learn about their rights and hear from others who had similar experiences. The success of our first town hall in Ottawa encouraged us to begin planning others. We will be reaching out to individuals and promoting raising awareness on social media in addition to hosting more town halls.

Frequently Asked Questions.

The questions we received at the town hall tended to be a mix of ones we are often asked by sexual abuse survivors (our firm’s practice focus) and others that are unique to Sixties Scoop survivors. These included:

Q: Can I sue if my abuser has passed away?

A: Yes, under certain circumstances. If the abuser’s death occurred within the past two years you are still eligible to launch a claim against their estate. You may also sue at any time if an institution was involved. If the abuser was someone other than a survivor’s parents, a lawsuit is often still possible, but there may be more complications.

Q: If I received settlement money from the class action, can I still file an abuse claim?

A: Yes. The class action solely related to cultural losses, not individual losses or harm from physical, emotional or sexual abuse.

Q: Can I sue if there were no witnesses?

A: Yes. We will work with you to establish and build your credibility and use other evidence to support facts that are important to your story.

Q: Can I pursue a civil claim if the police were not notified of the abuse or if a criminal case was dismissed or resulted in a not guilty verdict?

A: Yes. Civil abuse claims are distinct from criminal proceedings. The burden of proof is lower in a civil lawsuit than it is in criminal court.

Q: If the abuse happened a long time ago, can I still sue?

A: Yes. There is no statute of limitation for harms caused by sexual assault, abuse of a minor, or sexual misconduct involving a minor. Historical sexual abuse cases can still succeed even if they happened many years ago. Our firm has represented many survivors who were abused decades ago.

Should I come forward?

As a personal injury lawyer with a practice focused on sexual assaults and sexual abuse, I understand and empathize with survivors who are trying to decide whether or not to come forward or whether they want to pursue a lawsuit.

You should know that the right answer is whatever answer you come to - and changing your mind is completely acceptable. There should be no judgement when survivors decide how to respond to what happened to them or whether to do anything about it at all. It is up to you, the survivor, to decide what sort of healing journey you need. I am here to support you in that.

This deeply personal choice is one you should carefully consider. If you contact me or a member of our firm, we will listen to your story with compassion, care, and with a focus on your emotional well-being. We can explain your options and be there to answer any questions you may have as you make an informed decision that is right for you.

Whether you choose to file a claim, opt for an alternative route to obtain closure, or simply decide you need more time before you’re ready to proceed, we will fully support you in any way we can.

Survivors of the Sixties Scoop experienced unimaginable loss. With the help of community organizers, including Colleen Hele-Cardinal, many of them not only found compensation for what happened to them, but also each other. Sharing their stories together has been healing for many of them.

If your personal story has chapters involving abuse that have not yet been resolved, we are here to help you find closure. To learn more about how we can assist you, contact us today. 


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