The B.C. government has removed online child adoption advertisements that allowed prospective parents to search children by race, after criticism from Indigenous people across Canada, in response to a recent CBC News article.
The profiles of children, referred to by fictitious names, on the website for the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) were searchable by age, gender and race — a feature some Indigenous people found distasteful and even harmful.
"It was disturbing, and dehumanizing for our people," said 29-year-old Hector Dennis, a former foster child who said he was in dozens of foster homes before he was 17 years old.
In October, people took to social media to air their concerns, saying the profiles were reminiscent of online pet ads.
"It actually makes me uncomfortable, especially if you can search 'Indigenous girl,'" said Ronda Merrill-Parkin, a 26-year-old Cree mother who lived in foster care from six- to 18-years old.
"What if they are a predator?"
'I was really upset'
Katrine Conroy, B.C.'s minister for children and family development, said she felt compelled to take action.
"I was really upset, myself, of any pain those profiles caused any Indigenous people," the minister said from Richmond on Thursday.
The profiles were on MCFD's website until Nov. 1, and bore a striking resemblance to advertisements of Indigenous children listed in newspapers during the notorious Sixties Scoop.
"I understand how hard it could be having to relive that trauma," of the Scoop, Conroy said.
For Merrill-Parkin, their removal is a positive step.
"That makes me feel relieved and I'm glad she took them down," she said.
The updated MCFD website now sends would-be adoptive parents into a registration process and no longer includes searchable profiles of the children.
Long way to go
Ojibwe mother Melanie Haimerl was six years old when she was adopted by a family in Connecticut, and is one of thousands of Sixties Scoop survivors. Documents show that child services at the time allowed her to be advertised in newspapers across the United States and in Canada.
"I guess I am happy with the move, but I just see it as guilt," she said of the decision to remove the public ads.
She said it's just a small step in reducing the high numbers of Indigenous children in the care of the ministry. Recently, she joined a new Vancouver group to deal with today's Indigenous child apprehensions, called Keeping Our Children Today.
"Parents who've had their kids apprehended, lawyers and advocates are coming together to support parents dealing with apprehensions," she said.
For renowned Indigenous child welfare advocate Cindy Blackstock, the move signals a positive direction.
"We need to treat these kids with the dignity, the respect and the delicacy that something of this nature requires so that we are not exposing children to individuals who don't have their best interest at heart," Blackstock said.