'We finally found one another': Man sent to New Zealand in Sixties Scoop connects with Winnipeg family
Brent Mitchell was taken away from his Métis mom as an infant and sent to New Zealand at age 5
Brent Mitchell says he immediately recognized his brother and sister when he walked through the international arrivals gate at the Winnipeg airport, even though he had never seen them before.
"Family is family. We're blood," said Mitchell, who was sent to live with a foster family in New Zealand when he was five years old.
Mitchell is a product of the Sixties Scoop, the name given to the Canadian government's practice from the 1960s to 1980s of removing Indigenous children from their homes and placing them in foster care or putting them up for adoption.
Mitchell said growing up was tough — his foster family never adopted him and he hasn't spoken to them since he was a teenager.
He said he learned about his Indigenous heritage while living in a group home for "naughty children," as he describes it.
"That is when I demanded — I was 15 — to come back to Canada," he said. "They said I had no family in Canada to come back to."
But that didn't discourage him. In 1997, he asked the New Zealand government for his foster care files. That's where he found the names and birthdates of his siblings — six of them, to be exact.
But it took almost 20 years for him to find his sister, Penny Carberry. On June 5, a letter arrived at her Calgary home from the Canadian Post Adoption Registries containing Mitchell's contact information.
"I was very shocked that he was way out there [in New Zealand]," said Carberry. "It is very unfair that they shipped him so far."
2nd reunion for family
This is the second time in a decade a blood brother has reached out to Carberry. She met her oldest brother, Ron Mitchell, eight years ago.
He found out he was a Mitchell by accident.
"I lost my ID. My adoptive name was Ron Popplestone and I wrote the government and they wrote back saying there is no such person," he said. "They sent me this Mitchell name, so that's how it all started."
"I did start to dig, but I almost gave up because of the government's privacy act. They just stop you at every turn, but this one lady bent the rules," he said.
Carberry jokes about her reaction when she connected with Ron.
"I had two [foster] brothers that I grew up with and I thought to myself at first, 'Oh no, not another brother,'" she said with a laugh.
'I've been waiting so long'
Carberry was born in 1961 and taken from her mother when she was three months old.
She knew she was Métis and even knew the names of her birth mother and father, because they were recorded on her christening certificate.
"I really missed out on the culture, learning about the culture, being proud of the culture," said Carberry. "[I] had a bit of an identity thing happening. You just didn't feel you belonged anywhere."
She said now knowing two of her brothers will help her understand more, especially since Brent has done a lot of research on the family and will be sharing their history during his visit.
"We finally found one another," said Brent. "I've been waiting so long and I finally found part of my family."
The three are hoping to eventually connect with the rest of their siblings — they have four more and know their names, but have never made contact.