“Genocide has taken place in a systematic, routine manner”
– Justice Edwin Kimelman.
Less than 30 years ago, Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their mothers and left in the Child Welfare System for no other reason than being Indigenous; this was known as the Sixties Scoop. After generations of abuse in Residential Schools, the Canadian government had decided those Indigenous peoples who grew up to become parents were not fit to raise their child as a result of their own upbringing. The Canadian government has taken the power from Indigenous nations in this country and have used it to control them. During the most fundamental learning ages, Indigenous children were treated so poorly that it had affected their adult lives, and to no fault of their own. Stuck in a catch-22, Indigenous peoples have been fighting for autonomy, and deserve the basic right of self-determination, to which the Sixties Scoop has denied them.
From the 1950’s to the 1990’s, amendments in the Indian Act no longer made child-welfare a federal responsibility and was given to provincial child-welfare services. Child-welfare workers took Indigenous children from their families and placed them for adoption in other provinces in Canada, across the U.S., Ireland, even as far as New Zealand, and a vast majority of these families were non-Indigenous.
Many social workers were not familiar with Indigenous cultures, customs or styles, so when they saw their ways of living did not resemble Euro-Canadian fashion, it was assumed the children were not being provided for properly. Among the many social issues being faced in reserve communities, -which is a result of the government's poor actions and not Indigenous peoples themselves- the living environments for children were often of lower quality with crowded housing and unsafe drinking water. Rather than the government recognizing these poor living conditions and fixing them, they just decided to take the children away, as if this was going to be a sustainable solution. The idea was, much like in Residential schools, to terminate the existence of Indigenous peoples.
If children were taken from the environments in which they practice their culture, and placed into Euro-Canadian homes, it would be possible to raise these children to forget their Indigenous identity, therefore easily assimilating them into society and slowly eliminating the natives of this land generation by generation.
In some cases, children were told they were French or Italian when they saw the difference in features compared to their foster parents. On many accounts, children had suspected their heritage, but could never confirm it because for a long time the government implemented a policy that denied birth records to be shown unless both parents consented.
Even amid this pandemic, over 34,000 survivors of the sixties scoop who have applied for compensation are still waiting to receive what they were promised by the government in the 60’s Scoop settlement. Justin Trudeau’s administration has $750 million in settlement cash in which $75 million has been paid to lawyers and $50 million to a new “healing foundation”, but the survivors have received nothing. Sixties scoop survivor, Shirley Corrie, said in August 2020, that the lack of communication from the government leads them to believe “the money is never coming”, and that “there are people out there that really need the money. They put their heart into doing something with the money and it wasn’t coming.”.
Power has been put into the wrong hands. Indigenous peoples are constantly fighting for their rights; for the right to their land, for safe drinking water, for their voices to be heard, and not only to be heard, but to be valued and considered important. There is something to be said when a person's existence is in and of itself a protest; their persistence and resilience is the reason why they are still surviving despite the governments never-ending, yet constantly failing attempts to erase them from Canada’s history. Our governments mandate must be to do everything in its power to transform the lives of all indigenous people from merely surviving to thriving. Understanding our role as a nation in one of history's darkest moments is crucial; however, if these wrongs are to be made right, we as a nation, must insist that our government make real, and substantial change.
*All arguments made and viewpoints expressed within Youth In Politics and its nominal entities do not necessarily reflect the views of the writers or the organization as a whole.