POLITICS

Greg Selinger, Manitoba Premier, Issues Formal Apology To '60s Scoop Adoptees

06/18/2015 04:28 EDT | Updated 06/18/2016 05:59 EDT
WINNIPEG - Manitoba has become the first province to formally apologize to aboriginal adoptees for taking them from their homes and placing them with non-native families. Here is a text of the apology to '60s Scoop adoptees delivered by Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger in the provincial legislature:

Mr. Speaker, elders, survivors, guests, and members of this chamber,

I am humbled today to speak about a tragedy widely known as the '60s Scoop — this wide-scale, national apprehension of Indigenous children by child-welfare agencies removed thousands of children from their families and communities.

These children were placed in non-aboriginal homes across Canada, the United States and even overseas. While some adoptive families took steps to provide culturally appropriate supports to adopted children, the '60s Scoop is recognized as a practice of forced assimilation, and one that extended well beyond the 1960s.

There is not an indigenous person in this country who has not been affected by the residential schools legacy, and the number of indigenous people affected by the '60s Scoop is also very large.

Across Canada, the number of adoptees is estimated to exceed 20,000 First Nation, Metis and Inuit children. By separating these children from their families, they were stripped of their culture, language and traditions.

Judge Edwin Kimelman the author of the 1985 report "No Quiet Place" on the child-welfare system and how it affected aboriginal people described the '60s Scoop practice as "cultural genocide" — the very term that Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin and Commissioner Murray Sinclair used to describe the residential schools system. It is important that we acknowledge and appreciate the meaning of that description.

The reality is that, like the residential schools, the effects of the '60s Scoop remain with us today. The human impact on families and communities are profound and cannot be easily reconciled.

The '60s Scoop must now be recognized for the harm it caused and continues to cause. Many of the adoptees experienced profound shocks as they lost their heritage, language, families and their identity. Many of those who later returned to their communities as adults found it equally challenging trying to rebuild their relationships and connect with their culture.

Today, as premier, I would like to apologize on behalf of the province of Manitoba for the '60s Scoop — the practice of removing First Nation, Metis and Inuit children from their families and placing them for adoption in non-Indigenous homes, sometimes far from their home community and for the losses of culture and identity to the children and their families and communities.

It was a practice that has left intergenerational scars and cultural loss. With these words of apology and regret, I hope that all Canadians will join me in recognizing this historical injustice. I hope they will join me in acknowledging the pain and suffering of the thousands of children who were taken from their homes.

By recognizing these difficult truths, I hope that we can join together down a new path of reconciliation, healing and co-operation. There is a long road ahead of us. It takes time to heal great pain. But I stand here, on behalf of the Manitoba government, committed to doing our part in the reconciliation process.

Last year the province, led by the deputy premier and minister of aboriginal and northern affairs, held a two-day roundtable with '60s Scoop survivors to discuss their stories and put forward an action plan. This roundtable was the first time in Canada that such a gathering was hosted by a government.

Days later, on behalf of the province, Colleen Rajotte, herself a '60s Scoop survivor, and Chief Francine Meeches of Swan Lake First Nation presented to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission final national event on the '60s Scoop.

Then in April of this year, on behalf of the provincial government, Colleen Rajotte and Leah Gazan spoke about the impact of the '60s Scoop on First Nations, Inuit and Metis children at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

These actions brought much needed attention to this important issue. But still, much more needs to be done to assist '60s Scoop survivors.

This week, the Manitoba government opened adoption records to ensure they are more accessible to survivors of the '60s Scoop along with other adoptees. The records help adoptees and birth parents connect with each other giving access to birth certificates, adoption documents and other information that had previously been kept confidential.

We believe that all children have the right to know who their birth family is, particularly those who were part of the "'60s scoop generation" and for those individuals seeking information important to identifying First Nation, Metis or Inuit heritage. There has been a great deal of interest from adoptees along with birth parents.

Acknowledging the '60s Scoop's legacy as well as opening adoption records are very important steps forward on the road to reconciliation. However, we know that there will be many challenges for those who discover their family origins and we want to assist them.

Today, governments across the country are reviewing the calls to action and summary report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

Manitoba has started on many of the recommendations in the areas of education, family services, justice and missing and murdered indigenous women and children. We are using the report as a guide post for further action.

Under the leadership of Manitoba's deputy premier and minister of aboriginal and northern affairs, the Canadian ministers responsible for aboriginal affairs and national aboriginal leaders have advocated for the '60s Scoop and missing and murdered indigenous women and children to be addressed at a national level.

As Justice Sinclair has said, "an apology without a change in behaviour is meaningless and all levels of government need to admit their responsibility."

We have made progress on missing and murdered indigenous women and children. All Canadian provinces now support a national inquiry on this issue and have committed to holding another national roundtable within two years. We now want to see national recognition brought to the '60s Scoop, and today, we commit to raising this important issue at the next national roundtable.

We also know that education about the '60s Scoop and its impact on First Nation, Metis and Inuit children needs to be part of education curriculums across the country. In Manitoba we will be doing exactly that.

In closing, I would like to once again apologize, on behalf of the province, to the innocent children and their families for this practice that in the words of the TRC removed thousands of aboriginal children from their families and communities and placed them in non-aboriginal homes without taking steps to preserve their culture and identity.

We look forward to further leadership on residential schools and the '60s Scoop from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission this fall in their final report.

Ekosani, Miigwech, Mahseecho, Mutna, Wopida, Hei Hei, merci and thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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