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

Only steps away: Gutsy Walk returns to Kelowna

The walk to cures for Crohn’s disease and colitis comes June 2

QUIZ: Test your knowledge of Victoria Day

How much do you know about the monarch whose day we celebrate each May?

Kelowna firefighters douse blaze in hedges

The cause of the fire on Renfrew Road is under investigation.

Kayaker still missing as COSAR continues aerial searches

71-year-old Zygmunt Janiewicz was reported missing Friday

Kelowna Springtime Regatta draws more than 50 sailboats

Sailors treated to windy, excellent long weekend conditions on Okanagan Lake

Weather holds up for Rutland May Days

60th annual May Day midway, market and entertainment saw hundreds of attendees

Update: Plan to see more smoke from South Okanagan wildfire

Richter Creek wildfire, 12 kilometres west of Osoyoos, is an estimated 400 hectares

Raptors beat Bucks 118-112 in 2OT thriller

Leonard has 36 points as Toronto cuts Milwaukee’s series lead to 2-1

South Okanagan runners take top spots in Peach City RunFest

Both the top male and female half-marathon winners were from Penticton

Former Greyhound Canada employees gather in Okanagan to say a final farewell

“Greyhound may take our jobs but they will never take our friendships,” says former bus driver

‘Teams that win are tight’: B.C. Lions search for chemistry at training camp

The Lions added more than 50 new faces over the off-season, from coaching staff to key players

B.C. VIEWS: Reality of our plastic recycling routine exposed

Turns out dear old China wasn’t doing such a great job

Okanagan tattoo fundraiser draws tons of support

Lineup around the block in Vernon for start of Five Fathoms Tattoo event for Children’s Hospital

Carbon dioxide at highest levels for over 2.5 million years, expert warns of 100 years of disruption

CO2 levels rising rapidly, now higher than at any point in humanity’s history

Most Read