Children of the Sixties Scoop tell their stories

This week, CBC Montreal launched its series Real Talk on Race. Part of the series has focused on the Sixties Scoop — the government-imposed initiative that allowed First Nations children and youth to be adopted by families across Canada.

Experts say exact numbers of aboriginal children adopted by Quebec families unclear

Nakuset's earliest photograph — when she was three years old — is also the picture used during her adoption in the 1970s. (Submitted by Nakuset)

Real Talk on Race is CBC Montreal's special series exploring personal conversations and experiences around race in the city.

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This week, CBC Montreal launched its series Real Talk on Race.

Part of the series has focused on the Sixties Scoop — the government-imposed initiative that allowed First Nations children and youth to be adopted by families across Canada.

For decades, thousands of aboriginal children were taken from their parents, often without their consent or even their knowledge, and grew up never knowing their own culture. 

Between the 1960s and 1985, the federal government estimates that just over 11,000 children were removed from their families and adopted out — but the real number is estimated to be much higher.

Nina Segalowitz: Taken from the hospital 

Nina Segalowitz on being stolen from her birth mother

7 years ago
Duration 1:49
Nina Segalowitz's birth mother had all her seven children taken away from her. Nina was taken away as a baby after she was sick and her parents dropped her off at the hospital

Nina Segalowitz grew up in Montreal, the daughter of a white Jewish father and a Filipino mother. But she was born Anne-Marie Thrasher, in Fort Smith, Northwest Territories. 

She was taken from her birth parents when they brought her to the hospital for treatment as an infant. 

"They said, 'Come back tomorrow morning. We'll have medication for your baby,'" said Segalowitz.

"My mother came back the next day and I was gone."

Read the full article.

In Nakuset's own words

Nakuset says she grew up yearning for her native roots. 'I so desperately wanted to belong. ' (Submitted by Nakuset)

It was really difficult growing up in a culture that didn't match your own. I was almost three years old when I was adopted.

Old enough to know that this was not my home. Cautiously waiting to see if I would be moved again.

"Change her name. Don't tell her she's native. Immerse her into Jewish culture"

So, my parents, trying to be helpful, said, "When people ask why you look different, tell them you are Israeli".

Read the full article.

'Why did you get rid of me?'

Many adoptees grew up never knowing that their parents hadn't consented to give them up, like Lionel Kalisky.

Lionel Kalisky on being robbed of his indigenous identity

7 years ago
Duration 1:05
Lionel Kalisky says being a Sixties Scoop adoptee robbed him of his indigenous identity and left him broken.

Kalisky was removed from his parents of Dog Creek, Lake Manitoba First Nation and adopted by a Montreal-area family.

Daybreak speaks with two survivors of the Sixties Scoop, Nina Segalowitz and Lionel Kalisky, about what it was like to be among the 20-thousand First Nations, Inuit and Metis children who were taken from their homes and put up for adoption.

He says he was angry when he confronted his birth parents, asking them why they put him up for adoption.

"I wasn't ready for the answer that came. I wasn't ready for them to say, 'You were taken from us.'"

Read the full article.

Why was the government scooping children?

Why indigenous families were seen as unfit parents

7 years ago
Duration 1:03
Raven Sinclair, associate professor of social work at the University of Regina and a Sixties Scoop adoptee, says indigenous families' ability to raise children was decided on by social workers who were primarily young, white and middle-class.

According to Raven Sinclair, an associate professor at the University of Regina and herself a Sixties Scoop adoptee, the government only considered an upper-middle class Caucasian home as appropriate for a child. 

How you reacted

These stories generated a lot of conversation on social media. 

The post on Nakuset prompted similarly candid stories of identity.

"I am searching for my Cree Father from Saskatchewan [...] I was born Dec 28, 1963. I have no information on my father but would love to know my roots. I love my parents that made me their own and nothing will ever replace that love but KNOWING where you came from and learning your heritage is everyone's right." — Sandy Hutchison

"I too am from the 60s scoop at 5 years old I went across the ocean to meet Opa and Oma in Germany I was taken custody from my kindergarten teacher it has been a lonely life but an amazing one but yes identity is important so important."— Mila Semple-Morris

On CBC Montreal's Facebook page, people appreciated Nina Segalowitz having the strength to share her story.

"Much love to this brave woman for sharing her story. :(((" — Anna Chilli

"This is very heartbreaking. My heart goes out to her. Unfortunately there are many stories like this." — Marianna Lapp