London

Local Sixties Scoop survivor shares story to find and help others

In the fall of 2017, the Canadian government announced it was setting aside $750 million in individual compensation for survivors of the Sixties Scoop. But the deadline to apply is coming up quickly. Applicants have until August 30th.

Lana Parenteau was taken from her family in Moraviantown when she was just 5-years old

During what is known now as the Sixties Scoop, federal and provincial agencies would place ads like this in newspapers, trying to place Indigenous children in white homes.

From the 1950s through the 1980s, thousands of Indigenous children were taken from their families and communities and placed with non-Indigenous families.

Many children were subject to physical, emotional or sexual abuse while most lost connection to their cultures and languages.

In the fall of 2017, the Canadian government announced it was setting aside $750 million in individual compensation for survivors of the Sixties Scoop. But the deadline to apply is coming up quickly. Applicants have until August 30th. 

The information session about Canada's Sixties Scoop Settlement Agreement runs Tuesday at N'Amerind Friendship Centre from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. 

London Morning host Rebecca Zandbergen spoke with survivor Lana Parenteau, who was taken from her family in Moraviantown when she was just 5 years old.

Lana Parenteau was taken from her family when she was five years old. (Rebecca Zandbergen/CBC)

What was it like when you were first taken away? 

I remember all my older brothers. I did not remember anyone younger than me. I was always called the 'Dutch Indian' which I didn't know what that was. Nobody else was. When I got angry or punished, I wouldn't talk and they said the Indian was coming out of me. I lost my culture, my self-identity, I didn't know who I was. I tried to scrub myself white. I wanted to grow up to be a white bride. I thought I was alone until now because there's a lot of support out there now. 

How did you find your way back to Moraviantown and your family? 

My adoptive parents knew where I was from but we moved around a lot and at 15 I had been able to go and visit there for one day, but I did not know that I could maybe come back the next day because I was too scared to ask them. That's how I had my first contact. And one of my brothers had given me his address and I had given him mine in Alberta. After I had run away at 18, I called my adoptive parents and they had happened to have his number so that's how I called and contacted them and started coming home.

What was it like when you found your family again after all those years?

I was coming back and forth and starting to know my family. I met my biological mom, my dad and all of my brothers. So I had six older brothers, and a younger brother and sister; and also a sister that we don't know where she was adopted to at birth. 

What did it mean to you to find out that there was this compensation available?

I had been going to Toronto to the court case, the class action suit, supporting it and supporting Marcia Brown. It's not really about the money, it's that we don't want to see this happen anymore. It's hard for our people because we have to have that healing and forgiveness for everyone and also for ourselves, and to keep moving on. A lot of our children don't know where they're from. Many had bad experiences of physical abuse, sexual abuse, they were workhorses. It's a very big subject, but it's Canadian history too. We just want people to understand and know that we're here.

How have you for yourself been able to reconcile what happened to you?

I don't need to talk about my adoptive family anymore. I believe they thought they were doing the right thing but they didn't know they took all this stuff from me. My culture, my family, so I go to ceremonies, I do the traditional healing. That's where I'm at. 

Tell me what's in your hand right now?

I carry my eagle feather with me which gives me strength, it's part of my culture. I speak with it, I carry it with me.

Why is it important to you now to speak out about what happened to you?

Mostly because I want to see that everybody else knows they are not alone. Because when we were adopted we thought we were alone, there was no support. I was in private schools, I thought it was my fault I was adopted. So people need to know there's support out there and to reach out.

Q&A edited for length and clarity.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rebecca Zandbergen

Host, London Morning

Rebecca Zandbergen is from Ottawa and has worked for CBC Radio across the country for more than 20 years, including stops in Iqaluit, Halifax, Windsor and Kelowna.

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