Sisters Torn Apart By Sixties Scoop Reunited Decades Later

Sonya Murray, centre, made it her mission to track down her long-lost sisters Nakuset, left, and Rose Mary, right. (Submitted by Nakuset)

Sonya Murray, centre, made it her mission to track down her long-lost sisters Nakuset, left, and Rose Mary, right. (Submitted by Nakuset)

Women among thousands of First Nations children removed from their families under federal program

CBC News Posted: Jul 04, 2016 / Last Updated: Jul 05, 2016

Sonya Murray and her sister Nakuset hadn’t heard from their youngest sister Rose Mary since she was around five years old.

The two older sisters were taken from their family home in Thompson, Man., one night as part of a federal government program that’s now known as the Sixties Scoop.

Decades after being forced apart along with thousands of other First Nations children and placed in adoptive homes across Canada, the two sisters were reunited with Rose Mary Monday on CBC Montreal’s Daybreak.

Between the 1960s and 1985, the government estimates more than 11,000 Aboriginal children were removed from their families – often without the parents’ consent –  and adopted out under the program.

Nakuset

Nakuset said Rose Mary was ‘the missing piece’ and the sisters now have to make up for lost time. (Radio-Canada)

Others contend that as many as 50,000 children were adopted out under the program.

“One night, there was a knock on the door. Nakuset and I were alone in the house. I kind of opened door… and apparently some police came in and took us away,” Sonya said.

Nakuset and Sonya were kept in the same foster home for a brief period before they were separated.

‘She’s gone… that’s all I ever heard’

Sonya, who was around five years old at the time, was the eldest of the three girls.

“One morning I woke up and I looked in the bed over from me and it was all made up, and [Nakuset] was gone,” she said.

“I asked, ‘Where’s my sister?’ and they just said, ‘She’s gone.’ That’s all I ever heard.”

Nakuset was adopted by a family in Montreal, where she still lives, and Sonya was later returned to live with her mother and stepfather. She now lives near Kenora, Ont.

The emotions of that time are still raw for Nakuset, especially when she considers the loss Sonya felt and the effort she made to find her little sisters.

“Sonya made it her mission to try to find both of us, and she’s really the one that keeps us all together.”

That effort paid off last week, when she received a message from Rose Mary on Facebook last week.

Nakuset teenager

Nakuset says she grew up yearning for her native roots. ‘I so desperately wanted to belong. ‘ (Submitted by Nakuset)

The youngest sister had moved to Vienna, Austria, with her European father when she was around three years old.

“There were no goodbyes,” Sonya said. “She was just gone one day.”

The sisters’ four brothers were also taken from their mother and placed in homes.

‘She was the last missing piece of the puzzle’

The message from Rose Mary, who now lives in Horn, Austria, came as a welcome shock to Sonya.

“I couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t sure. My head was asking if this is real,” Sonya told CBC.

Since then, the three say they’ve been going “crazy” together, and they finally feel complete.

“In Austria, I used to feel lost and I never knew why,” Rose Mary said. “Now, my heart feels wide open and I’ve found new happiness.”

Rose Mary was “the missing piece,” Nakuset added, a feeling that was echoed by Sonya.

“You have a sense of emptiness, there’s always a feeling that you’re not full, you’re not complete,” she said.

“In meeting with my two sisters — now it’s ‘us’, not just me and you, like it was with Nakuset. It’s not just me and you against the world, it’s us against the world. We’re complete. She was the last missing piece of the puzzle.”

Nakuset said she can’t imagine the loneliness her youngest sister felt so far away.

“I think about how hard that must have been for her to be the only Cree in a country, you know, where there’s no one else who looks like her,” she said.

Nakuset said they’re now keen to get to Europe and teach their little little sister all about Cree culture and language. Rose Mary is already planning a visit to Canada next summer.

“We’re trying to do everything we can to make up for lost time,” Nakuset said.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/60s-scoop-reunited-sisters-cbc-1.3663770?cmp=abfb

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Tribunal Rules Canada Discriminated Against First Nations Children

Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations and Family Caring Society.

Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations and Family Caring Society.

By Red Power Media, Staff

On-reserve child welfare system receives less funding than elsewhere

Canada’s federal government has discriminated against First Nations children by providing less money for social services on reserves, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has ruled.

CTV News reports, the decision comes nearly nine years after a complaint was filed by the Assembly of First Nations and The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada.

In its ruling Tuesday, the tribunal found that funding formula used by the federal First Nations Child and Family Services Program (FNCFS) and related agreements with the provinces and territories have resulted in the denial of child welfare services on reserves.

The tribunal also found cases in which there was a financial incentive for the government to remove children living on reserves from their parents’ care and place them in foster care, even though that’s not the standard of care off reserves.

The society’s executive director Cindy Blackstock said the federal government’s own documents shows the gap in funding for social services on reserves runs between 22 and 34 per cent.

She noted the gap is “particularly intense” when it comes to services meant to keep families together.

“I can’t even believe we had to take the federal government to court to get them to treat First Nations children fairly,” Blackstock told CTV News Channel shortly after the decision was released. “I’m hoping they’ll use this opportunity to end the inequality for 163,000 children, not only in children’s welfare, but in education, health and basics like water.”

Children take part in a protest on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Feb. 14, 2013 calling for equal education for First Nations.

Children take part in a protest on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Feb. 14, 2013 calling for equal education for First Nations.

According to CBC Newsthe Canadian Human Rights Commission applauded the tribunal’s ruling.

“This historic decision could have a profound impact on how the government of Canada funds other on-reserve programs and services,” wrote Marie-Claude Landry, chief commissioner of the human rights commission.

Long fight

Hearings began in 2013, and the federal government made multiple attempts to have the case thrown out.

“They fought right out of the gate,” Blackstock said.

Before final arguments were heard in October 2014, during which the tribunal heard from 25 witnesses, the federal government had racked up $5.3 million in legal fees.

“Never once were those motions brought because they felt it was in the best interests of the children,” Blackstock said. “It was always to protect the government.”

Following the ruling, UNICEF Canada’s President and CEO David Morley said the tribunal has “set an important precedent” by promoting the right for First Nations children to be free from discrimination.

“We have a long history of inequitable treatment of First Nations children that must be recognized, atoned for and addressed moving forward so they have the same rights, access to services and opportunities as every other Canadian child,” Morley said in a statement.