POLITICS

Manitoba apologizes to families affected by Sixties Scoop today

06/18/2015 06:00 EDT | Updated 06/18/2016 05:59 EDT
The Manitoba government is expected to apologize to indigenous people caught up in what is known as the Sixties Scoop today — the first such apology by a Canadian province.

Between the 1960s and 1980s, thousands of indigenous kids were taken from their parents by child-welfare services and placed in mostly white families. As a result, many lost touch with their culture and traditional language.

Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger said the apology, coming at noon, will acknowledge the damage done to those taken from their homes.

Christine Merasty was taken from her aboriginal family in 1970 when she was four months old.

"I endured a lot of racist remarks. It hurt me," said Merasty.

"The rez school took my mom … then she goes missing ... she's found murdered … then I'm taken."

Merasty was adopted by a farming couple in rural Manitoba. Although she has a good relationship with her adoptive parents, Merasty maintains taking her from her biological family was wrong.

"As you are a child growing up, you have all these questions in your mind and you are thinking, 'Why didn't they want me, why didn't they love me … why did I end up over here?'" said Merasty.

"My questions now are, 'Who gave you the right? Who made that decision for me.'"

More than an apology needed

While the statement from the province is meant to recognize the ills of what is known as the Sixties Scoop and help families heal, First Nations leaders want more than a simple apology.

Grand Chief David Harper of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) represents First Nations in northern Manitoba. Families impacted by the scoop are still feeling its effects, he said.  

"People who were taken from their families are still trying to come back and go to their roots," said Harper. "We are going to be challenging the government that they call for a commission."

David Chartrand, the president of the Manitoba Metis Federation, said he wants to see a plan to reunite families.

"I commend a government that is bold enough to go out and admit they are wrong but ... if the plan is just to apologize and say, 'I'm just going to wash my hands of this responsibility,' then I get very worried and very concerned," said Chartrand.

Adoptees are also calling for a federal apology and compensation for experiences many say were as traumatic as those suffered by residential school survivors.

There are already two class-action lawsuits before the courts.