OTTAWA – Thousands of people have joined a group of Sixties Scoop survivors in signing a petition urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to formally apologize for the racist child welfare policies that separated more than 20,000 children from their families.
Colleen Hele Cardinal and Elaine Kicknosway, co-founders of the Sixties Scoop Network, launched the e-petition calling for a national apology for the decades-long harmful practice of “scooping up” Indigenous children and adopting them out to mostly white families. The petition, which was presented in the House of Commons today, has garnered 4,862 signatures.
“We are not just seeking an apology. We want the government to ask for forgiveness,” said Hele-Cardinal. “Canada needs to acknowledge the harms they have done to our communities, families and survivors by removing, displacing, and altering our identities. By asking survivors collectively to forgive the harms, we have the choice to forgive and move on for healing and closure. The little spirits that were hurt as children still need to be acknowledged, and a settlement is not enough. With support from allies, we demand that Canada ask survivors and their families for forgiveness.”
The Sixties Scoop – which lasted from the 1950s until the 1980s – saw an estimated 20,000 Indigenous children removed from their homes and adopted out, sometimes to families in other provinces or even as far away as the USA, Britain, Germany, and Australia. As a result, many children grew up far away from their Indigenous cultures, losing touch with their languages, ceremonies, traditions, and identities.
“The federal government must accept responsibility for its role in the Sixties Scoop,” said NDP MP Gord Johns, who sponsored the e-petition and presented it to the House of Commons. “Survivors have waited too long for justice, and this government must meet with survivors in ceremony and ask for forgiveness.”
In 2018, the federal government announced a settlement agreement with survivors of the Sixties Scoop, but Hele-Cardinal said Trudeau needs to formally acknowledge the historical and enduring harms from that era. Her petition also asks Trudeau to work with the Sixties Scoop Network and all survivors to host a ceremony for the national apology to occur.
Ana Collins, Indigenous Rights Advisor for Amnesty International Canada, said about the petition, “This call for government accountability and justice comes at a time when the entire world is distracted by personal and localized concerns for health and well-being. And yet, the well-being of Indigenous Sixties Scoop survivors resonated with people and so they chose to remind the Government of Canada of its human rights obligations. Colonial governments must be honourable in their dealings with Indigenous Peoples, especially those who have had their human rights violated as children.”
An e-petition must have 500 signatures before it can be tabled in the House of Commons, and the government must respond within 45 days.
Hele Cardinal has co-launched an interactive mapping project, In our own Words: Mapping the Sixties Scoop Diaspora, which shows the extent of the Sixties Scoop era’s displacements. The project also aims to support survivors in finding and reconnecting with family members and accessing services and support resources.