A group of indigenous people adopted during the Sixties Scoop says no members of Canada's Liberal government have responded to its request to meet with the prime minister and cabinet.

During the Sixties Scoop, between the 1960s and '80s, an estimated 20,000 indigenous children were taken from their parents by child welfare services and placed with mostly white families. Torn from their communities, many lost touch with their culture and language.

On Dec. 16., Indigenous Adoptees-Ottawa sent a letter inviting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for a discussion about healing from damage caused by the Sixties Scoop. 

Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould, as well as Canadian Human Rights Commission head Marie-Claude Landry and National Chief Perry Bellegarde were also addressed in the letter.

Though it was sent out again in January, there has been no response from any of the recipients,

Neither Indigenous Affairs nor the Prime Minister's Office has responded to CBC's inquiries about the letter and the Sixties Scoop.

"I don't think they're interested in this conversation," said Colleen Cardinal, co-founder of the Indigenous Adoptees group.

"I think they're really caught up in doing the inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women.

"There should be some form of acknowledgment that they've actually received a letter and that they're looking into it," says Duane Morrisseau-Beck, group co-founder and one of the letter's authors.

"To date, we haven't had any acknowledgment from anywhere."

Taken at birth

Children taken during the Sixties Scoop were mostly sent to live in homes across Canada and the United States, but some ended up as far away as Europe, New Zealand and Australia.

In 1972, Colleen Cardinal was taken from her biological family at birth in Edmonton and adopted into a non-indigenous family in Ontario.

"I didn't even know I was native until I was a teenager," Cardinal said. "The home I grew up in was extremely violent."

When she was 16, Cardinal ran away to Alberta and discovered her birth mother, a residential school survivor who was then living on "skid row."

Colleen Cardinal

In 1972, Colleen Cardinal was taken from her biological family at birth in Edmonton and adopted into a non-indigenous family in Ontario. "I didn't even know I was native until I was a teenager," Cardinal says. Picture taken in 1989. (Colleen Cardinal)


Cardinal eventually returned to Ontario and began rediscovering her First Nation roots — and connecting with other adoptees.

"I thought I was the only one who was adopted."

Still, because of the abuse she suffered Cardinal now lives with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Along with Duane Morrisseau-Beck and other members of the Indigenous Adoptees group, she organizes gatherings of Sixties Scoop survivors in Ottawa and regularly communicates with other groups across the country.

Strategy needed

In 2015, Manitoba apologized for its role in the Sixties Scoop and Saskatchewan is expected to follow suit. There have also been class-action suits launched in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. that would see adoptees receive compensation, similar to what was offered to residential school survivors.

Indigenous Adoptees-Ottawa says a meeting with the prime minister and cabinet should be the first of many with indigenous adoptees across the country.

'This new government promised that it would work on reconciliation and this is it.' - Colleen Cardinal, member of Indigenous Adoptees-Ottawa

The group would like to see the creation of national roundtables similar to ones held for missing and murdered indigenous women, where governments, agencies and adoptees can develop some sort of strategy.

Morrisseau-Beck says survivors he has spoken to in the Ottawa area have even been asking for a national inquiry into the Sixties Scoop such as the one being crafted by the government for missing and murdered indigenous women.

"This new government promised that it would work on reconciliation and this is it," says Cardinal. "We're asking for it."