“We feel it’s part of the long-term actions that we need to make towards reconciliation with members of the community that have been taken away from their families and lost their language and their culture.” The Premier told the Winnipeg Sun. “We want to continue to honour them, and this reconciliation gesture in the form of an apology is another step towards building stronger, better, more respectful relationships with all the peoples of Manitoba, particularly Indigenous peoples.”
The Scoop of the Sixties has never received the media attention the Residential Schools have because they didn’t last a century as the schools did, but they inflicted similar damage even though the methods were different. The actual term “Sixties Scoop” came from a long-time employee of the BC Ministry of Human Resources who spoke to Patrick Johnson, author of Native Children and the Child Welfare System. “This person admitted that Provincial Social Workers would, quite literally, scoop up children from reserves on the slightest pretext. She also made it clear, however, that she and her colleagues sincerely believed that what they were doing was in the best interest of the children.”
Judge Edwin C. Kimelman wrote a report on the negative repercussions of the “Sixties Scoop” comparing it to the residential schools. “When the Indian Residential Schools were operating, children were forcibly removed from their homes for the duration of the academic year. But at least under that system, the children knew who their parents were, and they returned home for the summer months.”
The Scoop of the Sixties separated children from their parents, home, and culture. Children were taken from their communities and put in homes across Canada and in the United States. The “Sixties Scoop” became an extension of the residential school program. The goal of both systems was to separate the children from their Native identity, and sadly, both systems were successful from that standpoint. Unfortunately, Aboriginal children paid the price in both circumstances.
Assimilation was the premise, but for many children the experience was painful. The children could not speak English and were seldom if ever made to feel part of a white family. They were never told who their real parents were, and when most were old enough they left the homes they had been sent to by the government. There were multiple mental, physical, and sexual abuse cases. The children felt abandoned, and as adults they rarely ever found their real home, and if they did they weren’t always welcome. Many would deal with the trauma in different ways. Some found their way
and were able to live normal lives, but many founds drugs and alcohol as the only solace for a ruined childhood and an unsure future. “The miracle is that there were not more children lost in this system, run by so many well intentioned people.” Judge Kimelman said in his report, “The road to hell was paved with good intentions, and the child welfare system was the contractor.”
Tony Merchant of the Saskatchewan Merchant Law Group that represents a thousand Indigenous clients from the prairie provinces who are suing the federal government approves of Premier Selinger’s action. “I commend the government of Manitoba, and this should be compared very favourably to the apology of Prime Minister Harper. The Manitoba government, other than to do what’s right, is taking the right bold step. First Nations, Metis people are appreciative. The issues of closure and recognition are very significant for people wronged in an extensive way like this. So they really are grateful when there is an acknowledgement of wrongdoing in this kind of way.”
Premier Selinger cannot undo the scars and damage the “Sixties Scoop” is responsible for, but in setting up an apology on behalf of the Manitoba government he is hoping this is the first in several steps to help the victims of the Scoop. ” I hope they will feel it’s a sign of respect and recognition of the suffering that they went through and their family members went through,” The Premier told the Winnipeg Sun, “and will help them heal and continue to be strong members of our community.”