Indigenous

Group petitions PM for national apology to 60s Scoop survivors

A group of Sixties Scoop survivors are calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to apologize for the Canada-wide practice that removed Indigenous children from their families and communities.

'It's not enough, just giving us money,' says co-founder of Sixties Scoop Network

Colleen Hele-Cardinal is the co-founder of the Sixties Scoop Network. (Kate Tenenhouse/CBC)

A group of Sixties Scoop survivors are calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to apologize for the Canada-wide practice that removed thousands of Indigenous children from their families and communities.

"It's not enough, just giving us money," said Colleen Hele-Cardinal, co-founder of the Sixties Scoop Network, a grassroots collective of survivors based in Ottawa.

"It needs to be on record that this happened in Canada. It needs to be acknowledged."

Between the 1950s and early 1990s, over 22,500 Indigenous children in Canada were apprehended by child welfare agencies and placed with non-Indigenous foster or adoptive parents and lost their cultural identities as a result.

In 2018, the Government of Canada announced a $875 million class action settlement agreement with First Nations and Inuit survivors of the Sixties Scoop. As of September 2020, over 10,000 out of the 34,768 claims submitted were still being assessed.

The House of Commons e-petition, initiated by the Sixties Scoop Network (formerly the National Indigenous Survivors of Child Welfare Network), asks for the prime minister to work with the network and survivors on a ceremony with the intent of asking for forgiveness and issuing a national apology in the House of Commons.

"It's kind of a personal thing for us. It's up to us whether we decide to forgive them or not instead of just accepting an apology. I want them to ask for forgiveness for what they've done to our families," said Hele-Cardinal.

She said the idea has come up at the network's survivor gatherings, and has been on their minds for a while.

Provincial apologies not enough

A number of provinces have issued apologies in their legislatures including Manitoba in 2015, Alberta in 2018, and Saskatchewan last year. Hele-Cardinal said while the provincial apologies are important, they're not enough to address the legacy of the Sixties Scoop.

"Those apologies, for people who aren't from those provinces and don't live in those provinces, are kind of meaningless because they don't acknowledge the displacement, especially for people who got taken out of the country," she said.

The petition, which closes for signatures on Dec. 15, is being promoted by Amnesty International Canada. Electronic petitions in the House of Commons require at least 500 signatures before it can be presented or tabled by a member of Parliament.

Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada said while the settlement represents a historic milestone in Canada's efforts to address the harm done by the Sixties Scoop, it is only the first step.

"The Sixties Scoop is a dark and terrible chapter in Canada's history. Working together to bring a meaningful resolution to its painful legacy is an important step in our journey of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples," said a statement from the federal department.

"We know that there are other claims that remain unresolved, and we are working to address the harm suffered by other Indigenous children as a result of the Sixties Scoop. We remain committed to listening to those affected by the Sixties Scoop and ensuring they have what's needed to heal."

About the Author

Ka’nhehsí:io Deer is Kanien’kehá:ka from Kahnawake. She works in CBC's Indigenous unit based in Montreal. Email her at kanhehsiio.deer@cbc.ca or follow her on Twitter @Kanhehsiio.

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