Adopted in Sixties Scoop, man comes to gathering hoping to meet long-lost sister

Conrad Prince was adopted at the age of two, he had never met his siblings. In 2000, he tracked down his brother, he's in Winnipeg now hoping to find his sister.

Conrad Prince was reunited with his mother and brother in 2000 before his mother passed away

This photo was taken on the day that Conrad Prince (left) was reunited with his mother, Denny Prince, and his older brother, Michael Muller, in 2000. (Conrad Prince)

Conrad Prince landed in Winnipeg Thursday evening after flying nearly 2,000 kilometres from Barrie, Ont. for the Connecting Our Spirits gathering at the University of Winnipeg. 

Connecting Our Spirits is aiming to bring together indigenous people that were adopted in what has become known as the Sixties Scoop. For Prince, he is hoping that he will have the chance to reunite with his sister that he has never met. 

A mother on the run

Prince's mother had her two eldest children taken from her while she was living in Manitoba. When she became pregnant with Prince, she decided she needed to run, hoping that she would be able to keep her youngest son. 

But in Alberta, Prince too was taken from his mother. 

Prince and his siblings were among about 20,000 indigenous children that were taken from their families by child-welfare services in Canada between the 1960s and 80s, in what is now known as the Sixties Scoop. Those children were then placed with mostly white families and as a result, many lost touch with their culture and traditional language. 

At the age of two, Prince was adopted by a white military family that moved to Germany months after he was put in their care. He grew up learning German as his first language. Later in life, his adopted family moved him around southern Ontario until he left home at 16. 

"It was very challenging. They did their very best at trying to raise me as their own but they did not have the cultural supports necessary to raise a minority child. There were instances where I would end up going to school and be subject to racism and it was more chalked up to behavioural issues on my end," Prince told CBC on Friday. 

Partial reunification

At 16, Prince walked into a Native Friendship Centre and found the help he needed to start the process of finding his biological family. He applied for his status card which gave him access to the open adoption records available in Alberta. 

Despite being out there alone, we were really never alone. And now moving forward, we actually have each other to lean on and heal together.- Conrad Prince

"That was one of the scariest moments of my life because of the fact that I could have been rejected. But the drive was so powerful inside me just to want to find out where I was from, it overcame that fear," Prince said. 

In 2000, after seven long years of working with the Southern Manitoba First Nations Repatriation Program, he found his family. He met his brother, Michael Muller, and they flew to their mother's home in Vancouver. 

"[My mother] is the strongest woman I've ever met in my life. She had so much courage to try to keep us but it was devastating for her," he said, his mother has passed away in the years since. 

The reunification was missing one of the pieces of the puzzle since Prince's sister backed out of the process. 

Finding his sister and sharing his story

"That's one of the reasons why I'm out here. I'm hoping to meet her one of these days," Prince told CBC. 

Prince has been told his sister was a part of a local arts group but he doesn't have a lot to go on. He does know she was adopted in Winnipeg, so he's attending this conference with the hope that she too will be there.

"If she's out there and she hears, please try and look me up. I would love to meet her," he said. 

This is not the first Sixties Scoop adoptees gathering Prince has been to. He has also attended events in Ottawa and Edmonton. It's important that they all be able to share their stories in a safe place, he said. And he added that he feels compelled to share his story of coming home, for those who weren't as fortunate as he was.

"Despite being out there alone, we were really never alone. And now moving forward, we actually have each other to lean on and heal together and move forward in a good way," Prince said. 

"Take a lot of that anger and even that shame and to turn it around and see it to be our strength and our resiliency. So when we go back to our communities, when we go back to our families, we're stronger. So we can rebuild."