Robert Doucette, a Metis Sixties Scoop survivor, stands for a photograph in his home in Saskatoon, Friday, January 4, 2019. (Liam Richards/The Canadian Press)

Canadian ’60s Scoop survivors hope government apology brings change

About 20,000 Indigenous children were seized from their birth families and relocated to non-Indigenous homes starting in the 1950s

Survivors of the ’60s Scoop in Saskatchewan are hoping an apology from the provincial government comes with action to reduce the number of children in care.

Premier Scott Moe is to apologize on Monday morning at the legislature.

About 20,000 Indigenous children were seized from their birth families and relocated to non-Indigenous homes starting in the 1950s until the late 1980s.

The practice stripped them of their language, culture and family ties.

Alberta and Manitoba have already apologized for their role in the apprehensions.

Survivor Kerry Opoonechaw-Bellegarde, who is 43, said Saskatchewan needs to do more than say sorry.

“An apology is really easy to put together, but for it to have meaning behind it, (the province needs) to prove to us that there’s something going on behind the scenes.”

Opoonechaw-Bellegarde, who is from Regina, plans to be there in person for the apology and hopes to speak with Moe to ask him to rework foster care in the province.

The number of children in out-of-home care in Saskatchewan stood at 5,227 at the end of September.

“Too many babies (are) growing up without their mom and dad,” Opoonechaw-Bellegarde said.

READ MORE: Federal judge approves $875M ’60s Scoop settlement after hearings

George Scheelhaase, 49, is a survivor who wonders how the government can apologize when Indigenous parents are still losing children to foster care and child and family services in what he says are record numbers.

“It’s the same thing that’s been happening since they first started taking us away. Nothing’s changed,” Scheelhaase said. ”What’s an apology when there’s no change?”

Government officials declined interview requests.

The government has said it has an agreement with an association of ’60s Scoop survivors that compensation will not be part of the apology.

A federal court last year approved a $750-million agreement that would see Ottawa pay survivors as much as $50,000 each. An effort by some plaintiffs to challenge the settlement was tossed by a judge in November.

Survivor Christina Nakonechny said it’s not just about money, but about making things right.

“Money doesn’t take away everything that happened,” she said. “I feel I was erased. My grandchildren don’t know any of their uncles or aunties.”

Sharing circles were held in Saskatchewan in October and November for survivors to talk about their experiences. Government officials attended and Opoonechaw-Bellegarde said the one she participated in was intense.

She said the session opened wounds for some survivors and she expects a lot of tears during the apology.

READ MORE: ‘We are sorry:’ Alberta premier formally apologizes to ’60s Scoop

Robert Doucette, a survivor and co-chair of an association of ’60s Scoop survivors, said the sharing circles were useful. A report from the association was presented to the government caucus Dec. 3 and Doucette believes the message was heard.

He, too, hopes the apology brings a change and suggests it’s one of the first steps in reconciliation.

“I wanted to hear the government say sorry for what they did,” he said from Saskatoon. ”It only validates what we believed all along that, due to circumstances, our family was not wrong for what was going on.”

Opoonechaw-Bellegarde, whose parents were residential school survivors, hopes Moe also apologizes to survivors’ parents.

“That was their kids taken away for no reason,” she said. “I’m sure they suffered immensely.”

Ryan McKenna, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

All Nations Driving Academy gets $360K boost from province

Terrace-based driving school bridges gap in services for remote northwest B.C. communities

Skeena Watershed reopened for recreational pink and coho

Four sections and tributaries remain closed

Skeena-Bulkley Valley candidates react to finding Trudeau broke ethics law

The election campaign is heating up before the writ has even dropped

Body of ATV rider recovered from bottom of Terrace trail

BC Coroners Service investigating death of man in his 70s

All Nations, Haisla teams hoop basketball tournament titles

Eighteen teams across two divisions faced off Aug. 8-10

VIDEO: Langley Ribfest met with protesters

Groups that oppose the event for various reasons plan to be on site each of the three days.

Helicopter-riding dog Mr. Bentley now featured on cans of new B.C.-made beer

Partial proceeds from every pack go to Children’s Wish

PHOTOS: Weapons seized at Portland right-wing rally, counterprotests

Not all who gathered Saturday were with right-wing groups or antifa

Sea-to-Sky Gondola in B.C. likely out of commission until 2020

Sea to Sky Gondola carries between 1,500 and 3,000 people every day during the summer season

It’s snow joke: Up to 30 cm of snow expected to fall in northeastern B.C.

Alaska Highway, Fort Nelson to be hit with August snowstorm, according to Environment Canada

Discussion on grief and loss between Stephen Colbert, Anderson Cooper goes viral

The exchange includes emotional question from Cooper, and outlook on grief as a child

Toronto activist calling on federal parties to nominate more black candidates

Fewer than 20 black Canadians have been nominated so far, including some Liberal MPs seeking re-election

Portland, Oregon, awaits right-wing rally, counter protests

Patriot Prayer’s Joey Gibson surrendered Friday on an arrest warrant for felony rioting

Kraft Heinz brand baby food recalled in B.C. due to possibility of insects

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says the product should not be consumed

Most Read