Sixties Scoop survivors call for Sask. apology and for healing to begin

More than two years after the province first promised to deliver an official apology for the Sixties Scoop, two survivors made their way to the Saskatchewan legislature to talk about the loss and trauma of being taken from their families as infants.

Sask. government says apology coming 'as soon as possible' following consultations

Patricia Whitebear, along with her granddaughter, was at the Saskatchewan legislature on Thursday to talk about her experience being taken from her mother. She said the government needs to listen to survivors and elders in drafting a formal apology for its role in the Sixties Scoop. (CBC News)

More than two years after the province first promised to deliver an official apology for its role in the Sixties Scoop, two survivors made their way to the Saskatchewan legislature to talk about the loss and trauma of being taken from their families as children.

Patricia Whitebear recalled she was taken from her mother at the age of two in Regina.

"So this affects me and saying this and being here right now is historical for me," she told reporters at the legislature on Thursday.

While Whitebear noted some First Nations and Métis children removed from their families had faced "horrendous abuses," she said she was raised on a farm by loving parents. However, she felt disconnected from her history and culture, removed from her people.

"I always wore a white shade of makeup and tried to bleach my skin. I made myself sick trying to bleach my skin, so they wouldn't spit at me and call me a useless squaw," she said, adding that as her children grew older, they asked why she didn't look like her mother and father.

Whitebear struggled to give them answers or stories of their identity and culture, not knowing these herself.

Asking for an apology

Leticia Racine, a fellow Sixties Scoop survivor, said she and Whitebear came to the legislature to hear what the government had to say about the Sixties Scoop.

"I think that we wanted to hear where the government stood in respects to their knowledge about us, where they stand in their willingness to apologize to our people," she said.

Leticia Racine was at the Saskatchewan legislature on Thursday to hear from the government directly about a formal apology to her and fellow survivors of the Sixties Scoop. (CBC News)

An estimated 20,000 Indigenous children were taken from their families and placed in other homes, mostly with white parents, between the 1960s and 1980s.

During Question Period in the legislature, NDP leader Ryan Meili and Saskatoon-Centre MLA David Forbes pressed the premier on when he would issue an apology to these survivors. Former premier Brad Wall had made the promise to do so back in June 2015.

"Dragging out this promise over the past two years has caused real harm and real damage in the lives of Saskatchewan people," said Forbes. "They should know better."

Premier Scott Moe said the government was working with First Nations and Métis leadership to draft an apology, which he said he would personally deliver.  

Minister of First Nations, Métis and Northern Affairs Warren Kaeding pointed to changes in leadership of the Saskatchewan government, but also within the Métis leadership, as part of the reason for the delay.

"It is certainly a priority on this government's part to ensure that that discussion and that apology is given as soon as possible," he said.

The era of the 'millennium scoop'

Beyond meeting with First Nations and Métis leadership, both Whitebear and Racine urged the government to talk to survivors and elders, to draft the apology for actions that continue to reverberate through Indigenous communities.

We would learn and we would vow to stop the cycle with our love, our knowledge, our cultural teachings.- Patricia Whitebear, Sixties Scoop survivor

"Children are still getting taken," said Whitebear, calling it the era of the millennium scoop.

"And I vowed, with my granddaughter, to be beside her. We would learn and we would vow to stop the cycle with our love, our knowledge, our cultural teachings."

While the provincial government has promised an apology, it has said it will not provide compensation.

But Racine said she hoped an apology would go along with support for healing programs, for those who suffered the Sixties Scoop.

She shared a message to fellow survivors who want support, saying, "There's a place for them with us."