In Canadian history, there have been dozens of painful events within the Indigenous community. Unfortunately, many of those events still linger today, such as the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls epidemic and the discrimination that many of our country’s founders, the Indigenous people, face. 

While the government and many citizens are working diligently to reconcile the hurt that’s been caused over many generations, there are still notable events that require open discussion, acknowledgment, and understanding. One of many detrimental events is referred to as the “Sixties Scoop”.

What was the Sixties Scoop?

The Sixties Scoop is an excruciating reminder of what the Indigenous people face in their homes and communities. It refers to the removal of Indigenous children from their homes and families without consent. It dates back as far as 1951 but was predominant in the 1960s. There are reports of this barbaric practice spanning well into the 1980s. 

Once the Indigenous child was removed or “scooped” from their family, they would undergo an adoption process into a non-Indigenous family. Often, they would be stripped of their heritage and culture, and many lost touch with their birth families. 

While many associate a child being removed from their home due to inadequate parenting, the Sixties Scoop had no relation to that. These children were being ejected from their loving homes with no cause or reason. It was strictly a racist and harmful practice used to assimilate the Indigenous culture. 

In 1951, the Indian Act was amended. This amendment gave the provincial government rights to Indigenous children. While the government argued that this offered the opportunity for Indigenous children to flee from socio-economic barriers and poverty that could often be found on reserves, the amendment undoubtedly caused unimaginable pain and suffering, which would lead to significant generational trauma. 

What Impact Did the Sixties Scoop Have? 

The Sixties Scoop has had extreme consequences, both to individual adoptees and their communities. Adoptees understandably feel the loss of cultural identity, loneliness, and isolation. In many cases, their birth records were sealed, which challenged many children from contacting their birth families. 

In response to this cultural abomination, class-action lawsuits were filed throughout the 1990s. These were especially prevalent in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. Even today, there are settlements and further discussions happening in an attempt to right the wrongs of the Canadian and provincial governments.

How has the Canadian Government Addressed the Sixties Scoop?

There have been more movements and efforts of reconciliation from the Canadian government from 2015 to now. Though it’s disappointing to see the amount of time it took for Canada to issue a public apology, we’re moving in the right direction. In 2017, the Canadian government offered a $1.3 billion settlement in the class-action lawsuit. It was the first success in the Sixties Scoop lawsuit action. This lawsuit took eight years to come to a settlement. 

Over the years, several provinces have issued a much-needed apology for the hurt, trauma, and failure caused by the government. Though this can never negate the struggles of our history, it’s hopefully provided some closure for the Indigenous communities.

How to Move Forward? 

The struggles of the Indigenous population have been glanced over by the rest of Canada for centuries. The Indigenous community has been underrepresented, mistreated, and wronged in many different ways – many still present today. 

Thankfully, many organizations and charities accept donations for Indigenous communities. Finding a local nonprofit is an excellent way to donate to the cause. 

To move forward, it’s essential to start open and honest conversations about the past. Giving the Indigenous peoples a safe place to share their struggles and hurt can provide an opportunity for healing and reconciliation. Get loud, stand up against discrimination and racism, and help our future be brighter than our past.

Article by Celina Dawdy