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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

More than 50,000 checks: Surrey COVID-19 compliance, enforcement team’s role has ‘evolved’

Joint bylaw, RCMP team created to help with coronavirus education, support

Homemade explosives detonated in South Surrey

Police asking public for help identifying those responsible

White Rock highrise on hold after workers exhibit ‘severe’ overexposure symptoms

WorkSafeBC issued stop-work order at 1588 Johnston Rd. site on July 24

White Rock’s top cop calls for ‘healthcare led intervention model’

Review aims for better understanding of crime related to mental health, substance use

Surrey man found guilty in West Kelowna killing of common-law spouse

Tejwant Danjou was convicted of second-degree murder in the July 2018 death of Rama Gauravarapu in West Kelowna

‘Don’t kill my mom’: Ryan Reynolds calls on young British Columbians to be COVID-smart

‘Deadpool’ celebrity responds to premier’s call for social influence support

Expected fall peak of COVID-19 in Canada could overwhelm health systems: Tam

National modelling projections released Friday show an expected peak in cases this fall

Hundreds of sea lions to be killed on Columbia River in effort to save endangered fish

Nearly 22,000 comments received during public review were opposed, fewer than 200 were for

B.C.’s fuel suppliers to publish prices to provide accountability: minister

Bruce Ralston says move will ensure industry publicly accountable for unexplained prices increases

Roots and Blues online festival live tonight on Black Press Media

Tune in to Black Press Media to watch the festival live Aug. 14, 15 and 16

Man suffers serious injuries in bear attack in remote area near Lillooet

It was deemed a defensive attack, no efforts were made to locate the animal

Missed rent payments because of COVID-19? You have until July 2021 to pay up

Each monthly instalment must be paid on the same date the rent is due

U.S.-Canada pandemic border restrictions extended into September

‘We will continue to keep our communities safe,’ says Public Safety Minister Bill Blair

578 British Columbians currently infected with COVID-19

Seventy-eight new cases confirmed in past 24 hours

Most Read