Saskatchewan’s social services minister, Paul Merriman, recently stated that the provincial government aims to apologize to survivors of the Sixties Scoop by the end of this year. The Saskatchewan government has promised an apology for several years, but previous scheduling conflicts with the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations and the Métis Nation of Saskatchewan have been cited as the cause of the delay. In informing and drafting the apology, the government has met with First Nations and Métis leadership, as well as with survivors and elders. Saskatchewan’s commitment to issuing a formal apology follows Alberta and Manitoba, as they have already formally apologized to Sixties Scoop survivors.
The Sixties Scoop refers to a period spanning from the 1950s to the late 1980s whereby approximately 20,000 Indigenous, Métis, and Inuit children were seized (or “scooped”) from their birth families and adopted by predominantly white, non-Indigenous families across Canada and the United States. These children were often seized from their homes without the consent of their parents or band. The practice was prevalent across the prairie provinces.
Beginning in 1951, amendments to the Indian Act gave provinces jurisdiction over Indigenous child welfare. Many Indigenous communities at the time were facing issues of poverty, high death rates, and wide-ranging socio-economic barriers. Rather than providing Indigenous communities with the resources and support required to confront the concerns specific to Indigenous children and child welfare, provincial governments considered the removal of these children from their families and communities to be the easiest and most quick way of addressing the problem.
The experience of both physical and emotional separation from their families has had significant and long-lasting effects on the adoptees and Indigenous communities to this day. These effects include a loss of cultural and historical identity, low self-esteem, emotional distress, and feelings of shame, loneliness, and confusion. Some of the adoptees have reported experiences of sexual, physical, and other abuse.
The Saskatchewan government has been working with the Sixties Scoop Indigenous Society of Saskatchewan (SSISS) to host sharing circles with survivors around the province, with the final one to be held in Regina on November 25th. The information and testimonies gathered during the sharing circles are intended to meaningfully inform the official apology. Moreover, SSISS has further clarified that they would like to see more happen after the formal apology, particularly in terms of the strategies made available to help people to deal with their health issues, such as support services to assist with depression.
At the end of the day, the government’s apology, if meaningful and well-informed, will serve as an action in the right direction towards ongoing processes of reconciliation and establishing a mutually respectful relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada.
This blog post was written by a CCLA-PBSC Rights Watch student. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCLA or PBSC.