This action is certified as a class proceeding. The Settlement Agreement has been approved with the modification that there is dissemination of its information to every part of Canada to ensure that every eligible person receives the payment allotted for such.
(This is the second of three consecutive Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre Case Watch Blog posts regarding the Sixties Scoop Class Action judgements.)
The precedents in Brown v Canada are historical and exemplary in the understanding of cultural identity as essential to the human personality. By an order dated January 4, 2018, Riddle, White and Charlie Actions were consolidated. The Parties agree that the Settlement per approval in Brown v Canada in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice and in the action constituted in the Federal Court be consistent with the terms of the Settlement Agreement.
Twenty-three class proceedings at different stages were at one time across Canada including Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Albert and British Columbia in respect of the Sixties Scoop. These actions sought “damages for the harm that was caused… by the alleged breaches of fiduciary and common law duty on the part of the Federal Crown” (Brown v Canada (AG), 2013 ONSC 5637). On February 1, 2017, the Federal Government announced its intention to initiate mediation in regards to the Sixties Scoop litigation across the country. During the mediation, a wide, all-encompassing range of comprehensive topics were discussed and negotiated.
The essential terms of the Settlement are as follows: (1) a Foundation with a mission to enable change and reconciliation as well as access to healing, wellness, commemoration and education; (2) Eligible Class Members; (3) The Compensation Scheme: Canada will not be required to pay more than $750,000,000.00. Depending on the number of Approved Claimants, each Eligible Class Member who submits a claim shall receive a compensation of a maximum $50,000; (4) The Claims Process: is intended to be simple, paper-based, cost effective, user-friendly and to minimize the burden on the applicant by a one page form; (5) Releases: The class members agree to release Canada from any and all claims that have been pleaded or could have been pleaded with respect to their placement in foster care, Crown wardship or permanent wardship, and/or adoption; (6) Opt-outs: Should 2,000 class members opt out, Canada, in its sole discretion, may decide not to proceed with the Settlement Agreement and shall have no further obligations in this regard; (7) Legal Fees: the payment of Class Counsel from a separate Fund. Class counsel further agrees to perform any additional work required on behalf of class members at no additional charge; (8) Settlement Approval: The Parties agree that the Settlement per approval in Brown v Canada in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice and in the action constituted in the Federal Court be consistent with the terms of the Settlement Agreement.
There was some objection to the quantum of legal fees. The Court agreed that the fees sought are fair and reasonable, mainly because class counsel will remain available to the claimants following the approval of the Settlement and because the requested fees are less than 10% of the overall global payment. This litigation is “historically unique” and was “inherently fraught with risk”. The Court takes into account that the claims in this class action refer to a loss of cultural identity. These cases undoubtedly pose a significant litigation risk to be assumed by Class counsel (Manuge v Canada, 2014 FC 341). The legal fees are intended to “encourage counsel to take on difficult and risky class action litigation” (Abdulrahim v Air France, 2011 ONSC 512). The parties’ commitment in the inauguration of the Settlement, is one of the reasons the result achieved was successful and were able to avoid delays and expensive costs associated with individual hearings by which to compensate class members.
It was undeniable that “bringing closure is critical” for the survivors of the Sixties Scoop. Without a settlement agreement, the risks include: (a) national certification order may not be granted; (b) a fiduciary duty may be found not to be owed, as in Ontario; (c) liability might not be established; (d) statutory limitation periods could bar many or all of the class’ claims; (e) an aggregate award of damages could be denied by the court forcing class members through lengthy and protracted individual assessment; (f) proven damages could be similar to or far less than the settlement amounts; (g) ordering reconciliation, commemorative or healing initiatives, of the nature the Foundation is tasked with, would have been outside the jurisdiction or purview of any court to order. The Court viewed the Settlement Agreement as fair, reasonable and in the best interests of those affected by it.