Sask. NDP offers apology for role in Sixties Scoop

The Saskatchewan NDP offered an apology for their party's role in the Sixties Scoop on Thursday at the Legislature.

NDP freedom of information request reveals gov't has not moved on recommendations made by survivors

Sask. Opposition Leader Ryan Meili offered an apology to Sixties Scoop survivors on Thursday for his party's role in the 'damaging policy.' (Bryan Eneas/CBC News)

The Saskatchewan Party offered an apology for the government of the day's role in the Sixties Scoop in January, but the provincial opposition had not done so.

That changed on Thursday, when NDP leader Ryan Meili offered an apology in the Legislature.

"Past NDP governments share responsibility for carrying out this policy, so we must also ask forgiveness for the harm done to children, for the pain caused to parents and the damage done to communities," Meili said.

Members of the Sixties Scoop Indigenous Society of Saskatchewan (SSISS) were in attendance for the apology.

According to a news release issued by the NDP Caucus on Thursday, SSISS submitted a list of recommendations to the province as to how to move forward after their apology last year.

Through a freedom of information request, the NDP found the recommendations included creating a task force to find records, launching a public awareness campaign, continuing the sharing circles that were held before the apology and creating of a research team to find ways to reduce the number of children in care. According to the NDP news release, the government has made no moves on any of the recommendations.

Meili called on the government to do more.

"We're asking the provincial government to honour the entirely reasonable recommendations that came out of the apology process," Meili said. "The fact that they haven't yet is troubling and we hope they will act quickly to rectify this."

Survivors call for task force to find records

Members of SSISS were on hand to hear the NDP apology. They noted that some records of Sixties Scoop survivors have been destroyed.

That's problematic for some, because a class action lawsuit launched on behalf of survivors has an Aug. 30 deadline and some survivors are scrambling to find their records.

Robert Doucette, co-chair of SSISS, said organizing a task force to collect records of Sixties Scoop survivors is the number one priority right now.

Robert Doucette, co-chair of the Sixties Scoop Indigenous Society of Saskatchewan, called for the creation of task force to locate missing Sixties Scoop survivor records. (CBC News)

He said SSISS has filed access to information requests to find out who was responsible for destroying the records.

"One of the things that we've seen with respect to our access to information is a phrase that's been repeated time and time again in the past records, is that our records were of no historical significance," Doucette said. "As a Sixties Scoop survivor, that really shakes me to my core."

Doucette said that message has been a trend with a lot of government organizations SSISS has tried to work with.

Doucette noted the federal government also had a role in the Sixties Scoop. He said he wants to know what happened to records that were sent to what was then the Department of Indian Affairs.

"The past records of legislation says when a First Nations child was taken in the '60s and '70s, there was to be three points where the information was to go," Doucette said. "One was to social services, one was to vital statistics and one was to Indian Affairs."

He said SSISS knows has correspondence from the federal government to Scoop survivors indicating that records no longer exist.

In terms of their work with the provincial government, Doucette said SSISS is going to continue to press the Minister of Social Services Paul Merriman to meet with them.

He said he knows of at least 20 to 25 letters from people whose records have been destroyed.

Vince Vandale, a resolution support worker who works with the Saskatoon Tribal Council, said people who cannot access their records have essentially lost their entire childhood.

"A lot of people who come to us don't know what years they were in care, how long they were in care, which foster homes they were at, some people go through 12 to 20 foster homes," Vandale said. "All of that is lost now. They don't have any records of that, they don't have any history."

Aside from the task force, Vandale said he's seen no movement on any of the other recommendations SSISS put forward since the government apologized.

'We've moved on a lot of the recommendations': Minister

After question period, Merriman said survivors who can't find their records can ask the province to submit a letter to the federal government essentially vouching for them as Indigneous people who went through the Sixties Scoop.

He noted the government has been able to obtain about 85 per cent of the records for requests that have already come in.

Paul Merriman, Minister of social services in Saskatchewan, says the government is addressing record issues on a case-by-case basis. (Matt Howard/CBC)

"I think we've moved on a lot of the recommendations," Merriman said of the list put forward by SSISS ahead of January's apology.

"We absolutely continue to work with them on that, we were there when the report was written, the report was submitted to us and we talked at that time on some of the important recommendations, which was the record retention."

Merriman said he accepted everything that had been discussed with SSISS, including the recommendations the group put forward, however he was non-committal in answering whether or not the recommendations would be implemented.

He said the government would continue to work with Sixties Scoop survivors on a case-by-case basis to find their records, but wouldn't commit to launching a task force to get the job done.

With files from Adam Hunter