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Seeking survivors to listen to their realities

Colleen Cardinal, Sixties Scoop survivor and Kenn Richard, executive advisor, director of the Indigenous Spirit Fund, Native Child and Family Services of Toronto, have shared their stories over the years. (Courtesy The Foundation For Sixties Scoop Survivors)

The foundation for Sixties Scoop survivors will be hosting 10 engagement sessions in different locations across Canada from September 2019 until February 2020 to hear voices and recommendations from many affected individuals to best serve them in recovery.

The interim board, independent of the government foundation, aims to guide the first steps of its development with $50 million provided by the approved national settlement, with the intention to ask Sixties Scoop survivors how the new foundation can best serve them along their journeys and support their goals, according to the foundation.

Kenn Richard, executive advisor, director of the Indigenous Spirit Fund, Native Child and Family Services of Toronto, said the purpose of the consultations is to capture those voices and put them together to the final report that will go to the board of directors, and then they will develop services on what they heard.

“My job is to make sure we capture those voices,” he said, “To make sure that we have as many people speaking as possible and in as many locations as possible.”

“We’ll travel right across the country from Montreal to Vancouver, up to the north, so very extensive consultation with an open invitation to all survivors to come and give directions,” Richard said.

He believes with the funds awarded by the approved national settlement, they can do a lot of work.

“Services provided will be decided after the sessions,” he explained, “I think there will be info services, cultural support, community practices, ceremonies… I’m sure there will be family support, some services for their children, it is all going to be about helping people re-attach themselves to Indigenous culture.”

“It is really about getting advice to provide services, but also on how important decisions are made of the board of directors,” he added.

Richard said the travel bursary will support travel expenses, accommodation in respective locations of the chosen engagement session and reimbursement for gas mileage.

“We managed to help people travel to the event,” he said, “So we make sure we get everybody. It is a very critical series of meetings to the direction of the foundation itself.”

Colleen Cardinal, a Sixties Scoop survivor, will be participating in the Toronto engagement sessions, making sure that all survivors – as many as she can help – understand that this foundation is here for them.

“I participate in giving ideas and my truth in what kinds of things the foundation needs for me as a survivor, what kind of services or healing we need,” she said.

“As a survivor I have a responsibility to make sure that I can contribute to the process. I support the foundation, the work they are doing,” she added.

Her role is to facilitate this process, to make sure she is distributing enough information about the engagement sessions working through social media, emails and local organizations in Ottawa, she said.

“I want to make sure that survivors are aware of these sessions and that they are aware that transportation money may be available to those who are having trouble with traveling funds,” she explained, “It is in the process of seeking survivors and to listen to them what kind of services they want.”

Cardinal mentioned there might be an emotional charge during the sessions, and strong support on site will be provided: there will be elders and mental health workers.

“It is such a personal thing for each survivor to go to the sessions, meet other survivors and to address loss,” she said. “We need to heal, there is so much work that needs to be done in regard to cultural loss, healing from grief and trauma.”

Cardinal thinks the sessions are important, “because without the survivors, the foundation wouldn’t do the work that we needed to do.”

“We participate in that process because ultimately it will be for us and by us, so we want the foundation to be long-term, sustainable and for survivors and their families,” she said, “I encourage survivors to get out there and participate for their healing and cultural reclamation.”

Conrad Prince, director of engagement sessions, an adoptee and survivor of the Sixties Scoop, explained overall engagement process will be in three different ways: 10 face-to-face sessions themselves, an online platform with online survey, and mailed surveys, depending on the request of survivors.

“We are trying to provide many opportunities for survivors,” he said, “So they can engage in this process with the intent for them to actually provide programs and services of the foundation.

“That is a historical moment for our survivors and an excellent opportunity for them to engage. I really encourage survivors to come and share their voice with us,” Prince added.

He said some survivors might not feel comfortable, so the foundation needs to do this in a safe manner, that means having the cultural spiritual support present on site at the engagement session, and mental health  specialist to support them during those sessions.

 “My responsibility is making sure that all voices of survivors are going to be respected, valued and heard, and it doesn’t matter which platform they use to engage,” he said.

“I don’t want to underestimate a historical significance of what we are doing,” he said, “Survivors didn’t have a choice of what happened to us, but we have direct say and now we deal with our recovery.”

Prince thinks it is critically important encouraging the Sixties Scoop survivors to share their voices because, “we know that foundation will be able to invest that $50 million in a very wise and efficient manner for survivors.”

According to the foundation website, the engagement sessions starts in Montreal, September 21. To participate in the sessions survivors can register on the web site. as personal information will be disposed, the sessions will be held only for the Sixties Scoop survivors.

All the information gathered from the process will directly inform a final report, including specific recommendations for the interim board.

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