'Alex, where are you?': the search for a brother lost since Sixties Scoop

Margaret Sutherland wants her brother Alex to know his siblings love him and miss him. But they have no clue where to find him.

Métis siblings hope Facebook can help find brother seized by child welfare officials

One of just a handful of photos that Alex Sutherland's siblings have of him today. He has not been seen since being seized in the Sixties Scoop. (Sandra Myers/Facebook)

Margaret Sutherland wants her brother Alex to know his siblings love him and miss him. But they have no clue where to find him.

Those are the bittersweet sentiments that haunt Alex's six siblings, decades after they were separated by the Sixties Scoop.

"Does he know about us? Does he hate us for what happened?" Sutherland says. "Does he know we still exist? Or who to blame? Because it wasn't our fault. We were just children."

It was 1976 and all seven Sutherland children were in their Camperville, Man., home when a child welfare agent showed up and took them all away.

Does he blame us for what happened?- Margaret Sutherland

For a while, they were punted from foster home to foster home. Eventually four were sent south of the border, adopted to families in Louisiana. 

Alex, however, was never seen again.

"He was gone, no one told us where he went, we know nothing about him," Margaret Sutherland says.

The remaining siblings eventually found their parents and reconnected; despite efforts from child welfare officials to keep them apart.

"They told my sister that our father didn't want us and our mother was dead," Sutherland recalled. 

They lied on both counts.

"My mother was alive," she says. Both parents were heartsick.

Siblings united in search

Today, geography and circumstance separate the siblings. They're all adults now, some with family of their own. Some live in Manitoba, others in the U.S. One sibling, Scott, is locked up in a Louisiana prison. All of them are united by one goal — to find their brother Alex.

"There's an empty in us because he's the only one we can't find," Sutherland says. 

They've now taken to Facebook to broaden their search. Sister Sandra Myers posted an old photo of Alex (one of just a handful in the family's possession) with this plea: "If anyone knows anything, please let us know."

They think he's still in Canada. There's a rumour he's in Alberta. But if truth be told, they really don't know.

"That's just what someone heard," Sutherland says. "I'm not sure why."

The Métis children from Camperville, the Sayisi Dene of Churchill, the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation and other communities in Manitoba and beyond were targeted, says survivor David Chartrand. There is therefore a "lost generation" of children from these communities — some who may not even know where they're from.

It is, Chartrand says, yet another in a list of sorrows caused by the Sixties Scoop.

"I call this Alice in Wonderland," he says. "The deeper into the rabbit hole you go..."

That's why survivors now cling to social media. Some, like the Sutherlands, seek long-lost loved ones.
Sixties Scoop survivors Dianne Fast, right, and sister Tina Spence. (Donna Carreiro/CBC)

For others, like Dianne Fast, social media helped her find out about her background. 

"I thought it was just our family that [child welfare officials] done this to," says Fast, who, along with her siblings, was seized from her family. "Then I found out about the Sixties Scoop group on Facebook and I realized it wasn't just me. I was blown away by it."

For her, the social media discovery was cathartic. 

"I read everything I can on it now," Fast says. "We give each other support."

Margaret Sutherland hopes the same is in store for her brother Alex.

"We hope he knows we're looking for him," she says. "It would be an emotional reunion."