WARNING: This story contains distressing details.
Former Canadian senator Murray Sinclair and a group representing survivors of the Sixties Scoop are calling for a federal inquiry into the actions and policies of governments that led to thousands of Indigenous children being taken from their homes over four decades and placed with non-Indigenous families.
“There have been studies on the Sixties Scoop, but we really haven’t delved into how far-reaching the effects really are,” said Katherine Legrange, volunteer co-ordinator with the 60s Scoop Legacy of Canada.
An inquiry is needed to get a full account of the number of children taken, and the impacts on the lives of survivors and their families, said Legrange, a plaintiff in one of the lawsuits involving survivors.
The children who were removed need to know they are not alone, but they also need to know that there were reasons for what happened that were not of their parents’ making.– Murray Sinclair, former senator
Sinclair, who chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, said many of the challenges facing Indigenous families that led to the apprehension of their children stemmed from the legacy of decades of the residential school system.
“The children who were removed need to know they are not alone, but they also need to know that there were reasons for what happened that were not of their parents’ making,” he said in a release.
The group wants a meeting with federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett to discuss an inquiry, as well as a national apology and a settlement for Métis and non-status survivors who were excluded from a 2017 class-action settlement.
Canada’s settlement agreement set aside $750 million to compensate First Nations and Inuit children who were removed from their homes and placed with non-Indigenous foster or adoptive parents between 1951 and 1991, and ended up losing their cultural identities.
Views differ on number of children taken
Estimates of the number of children taken are at around 20,000, but Legrange said survivors and families believe the figure is much higher.
Legrange and her brother were born seven months apart. They were separated from each other when they were children, but reunited in 2019 after she tracked him down on Facebook.
“He welcomed me with open arms, never questioned who I was or where I came from, and so we connected quite well,” Legrange said.
Recently, however, Legrange lost contact with her brother, who she said endured trauma as a result of his experiences in the child welfare system.
“He’s marginalized, he was suffering with unresolved trauma and some addictions issues, and unfortunately he passed away from an overdose on June 11. And it wasn’t until July 18 that I was notified that he had passed away.”
In 2018, Bennett pledged a separate settlement for Métis and non-status Indigenous survivors, but Legrange said her group has not had any meetings yet with Bennett to discuss it.
Leslie Michelson, a spokesperson for Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, said the Sixties Scoop settlement agreement was “only the first step” to address the harm done by that system.
“We know that there are other claims that remain unresolved, including those of the Métis and non-status First Nations, and we are working with our partners toward a fair and lasting resolution for all survivors,” Michelson said in an emailed statement on Monday evening.
On top of individual compensation, the Sixties Scoop settlement also agreed on the need for a foundation to support those affected, the statement said.
“It was crucial to all of those involved that this foundation would bring forward the perspectives of survivors to undertake and fund healing, wellness, education, language and culture activities related to the Sixties Scoop,” Michelson said.
Although the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the national inquiry inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) examined elements of the Sixties Scoop, there are key differences that need to be considered, Legrange said.
Many survivors of residential schools returned to their home communities; the Sixties Scoop involved the permanent removal of children from their families, she said.
Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools and for those triggered by the latest reports.
A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for residential school survivors and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.
- Do you know of a child who never came home from residential school? Or someone who worked at one? We would like to hear from you. Email our Indigenous-led team investigating the impacts of residential schools at firstname.lastname@example.org or call toll-free: 1-833-824-0800.