Manitoba’s Metis Federation President says his people are being left out.
Manitoba’s Metis federation says its people are being left out of an apology — set to happen on Thursday at the legislature — for aboriginal children who were taken from their parents and adopted into white families.
The apology, thought to be the first by a Canadian province, is directed at individuals from the so-called “60s Scoop,” which many see as an extension of Indian residential schools policy.
Premier Greg Selinger said the apology, will acknowledge damage done to those taken from their homes and their culture. Manitoba was one of the provinces most affected, so it is appropriate that it be among the first to apologize, he said.
“It’s an acknowledgment that they did lose contact with their families, their language, their culture,” Selinger told The Canadian Press. “That was an important loss in their life and it needs to be acknowledged. It’s part of the healing process.”
Manitoba’s Metis Federation President David Chartrand said no one from the Manitoba government consulted with the Metis or formally invited him to the event. The Metis were left out of the residential school settlement and it feels like the same thing is happening again, he said.
Manitoba appears to be blaming Ottawa for what is known as the ’60s Scoop when it was provincial social workers who seized aboriginal children and placed them with families as far away as the southern United States, Chartrand said.
“It’s the province that took our children. It’s the province that sold our children to the United States and other places. It’s the province that did harm to my families.”
“Clearly we’re not going to let the province get away from this.,” said Chartrand.
Paul McKie, spokesman for Selinger, said numerous aboriginal organizations have been invited to witness the apology. The Manitoba Metis Federation was invited Friday by phone, by email and formally by letter, he said.
The province, along with affected adoptees, has been working on the apology for months, he said.
“Many people, groups and organizations have been invited,” McKie said. “There were informal consultations with many people.”
An apology without a plan and proper consultation with those affected is empty, said Chartrand, who has worked with ’60s Scoop adoptees and their families for years.
“You can’t just say ‘I’m sorry’ and walk away. You did permanent damage here. You tore entire communities apart. Maybe they’re thinking if they say ‘I’m sorry’ that ends my responsibility.”
Grand Chief David Harper, with Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak which represents northern First Nations, still remembers children being taken away from his community, never to be seen again. He said he will be there to witness the apology but will also be looking for more.
From the 1960s to the 1980s, thousands of aboriginal children were taken from their homes by child-welfare services and placed with non-aboriginal families. Many have filed class-action lawsuits in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta. Another class-action lawsuit in Ontario is still making its way through the courts.
Residential school survivors have had a formal apology from Ottawa and were able to speak at hearings held by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which released its final report. The ’60s Scoop’ adoptees have been fighting for the same recognition of their experience and a formal apology.