Indigenous

Woman finds her 3 siblings, separated by Sixties Scoop, in documentary airing on CBC

Birth of a Family follows Betty Ann Adam's search and her family's reunion

Birth of a Family

The four siblings together for the first time at Banff. From left, Esther, Rose, Betty Ann and Ben. (NFB)

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The woman at the centre of a film about four siblings' reunion after being split up as children as part of the Sixties Scoop, says she hopes it sheds light on an issue many people still don't know about.

Birth of a Family follows the story of four Dene siblings from Saskatchewan who were taken away from their mother and raised in foster homes, and their reunion decades later. It won the Special Jury Prize at the ImagiNATIVE Film Festival this year.

In sharing her family's story, Betty Ann Adam said she saw an opportunity to help other Canadians understand the Sixties Scoop.

"I felt that it was important to do this," she said.

"It's kind of my part of the project of reconciliation."

The Sixties Scoop was a result of a set of government policies, along with the residential school system, which saw Indigenous children across the country being taken away from their families, communities and culture.

It began in the late 1950s, continuing until the 1980s, and saw thousands of children placed in foster homes with little or no access to traditional and personal knowledge about their history.

Adam was three years old when she was taken away from her mother, a survivor of the residential school system, and placed in the child welfare system.

When Adam was 16, she first met her sister Rose, who was 11 at the time. Adam's social worker and Rose's had made the connection that the two children were siblings.

Betty Ann Adam

Betty Ann Adam, co-writer, associate producer and subject of Birth of a Family. (Tasha Hubbard)

While she was able to have a relationship with her younger sister, Adam said the two lost touch for many years after the family caring for Rose moved to Alberta.

Later, while working an internship placement at a dental office in Uranium City, near her home reserve Fond du Lac Denesuline First Nation, the dentist she was working with showed her a list of band members. She saw her mother's name, along with her name and birthdate and the names and birthdates of three siblings.

"I knew about Rose but it was a surprise to find that I also had another sister... and a brother."

Adam took the list and kept it with her, planning to some day meet the siblings she had been separated from.

When that day arrived, and they were all planning to meet in Banff for the first time, she approached Cree filmmaker Tasha Hubbard to document it.

Adam, who has been a journalist in Saskatoon for almost three decades, had previously connected with Hubbard while she was making the film Two Worlds Colliding in 2004.

Hubbard said she was honoured Adam came to her.

Tasha Hubbard

Birth of a Family director Tasha Hubbard. (Nadya Kwandibens/Red Works Photography )

"This was an important story for her. It was a story she protected for years, the search she had, and finally being able to bring her family together," said Hubbard.

Hubbard, who herself was surrendered by her young mother as a baby and was placed in the Adopt Indian Metis Program, said the general public is just starting to learn about the Sixties Scoop and more stories need to be shared.

"People have a range of experiences," she said.

"We know that people were abused, not cared for, not loved and made to feel shame. Those stories need to be heard just as much as this story."

Birth of a Family airs Sunday, Nov. 19 at 9 p.m. local time on CBC-TV.

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