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

Penticton women celebrate 101 birthdays

Martha Sandy and Dorothy Gorner are both 101 years old this year

Business case for new Penticton arena being updated

New twin-sheet arena still years away

Chief Clarence Louie earns induction to Canadian Business Hall of Fame

Osoyoos Indian Band chief recognized as one of the country’s most distinguished business leaders

Video: New Penticton studio is a playground for creative types

We toured Penticton’s newest creator space

Hang glider pilot rescued from Pincushion Mountain

Pilot was able to help guide rescue crews to her location

Giant rotating ice disk forms in Maine river

Ice disk that is roughly 100 yards wide has formed in the Presumpscot River

First Nation supporters march to Premier Horgan’s MLA office in Victoria

Upwards of 30 people moved across the Greater Victoria municipality of Langford on Wednesday morning, in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en people

Liberal candidate steps aside after singling out Jagmeet Singh’s race

Karen Wang says she made comments online that referenced Singh’s cultural background

Long-time Okanagan construction business closing

After 65 years, OK Builders announces it’s closing its Kelowna, Vernon and Penticton operations

Huawei founder thanks inmates, Canadian justice system for treating daughter well

Ren Zhengfei said he believes there will be a just conclusion to the case of his daughter, Meng Wanzhou

May government faces no-confidence vote after Brexit defeat

British Prime Minister Theresa May said she would stay put in her leadership role

SUV wedged on top of parked car has Kelowna mall customers confused

The accident occurred Tuesday, no injuries were reported

Razor burn: Gillette ad stirs online uproar

A Gillette ad for men invoking the #MeToo movement is sparking intense online backlash

Most Read