How Canada Painted a Generation WhiteHidden under the shadows of Residential schools lies a horribly inhumane part of Canada’s assimilation history, the Sixties Scoop. This is a term used to refer to the time period in Canadian history in which there was a mass removal of indigenous children from their families and communities and into foster or adoptive care of non-aboriginal families. The sixties scoop has undeniably had a lasting effect on Canadian History. This traumatic time period has played a major role in: culture and language; Personal identity; Indigenous rights; And law and politics. The Sixties Scoop has had a destructive effect on the Aboriginal Identity; has brought attention to and changed corrupt welfare laws and adoption rights; It has contributed to the loss of a collective culture. The Sixties Scoop has had a destructive effect on Aboriginal Identity. For some lucky children, their new caregivers allowed them to explore their cultural identity. However, a majority of others suspected, but were never able to confirm , their true heritage.
Lynn Thomson, a victim of the Sixties Scoop said: “You had to be something other than native because it had such a bad connotation to it.” (Petrow) They spent years being ashamed of their differences, and have internalized this constant racism. Aboriginal children were encouraged to forget their heritage and imitate the behaviour of their new white families. (Hanson.
) However, the impossibility having to adapt to assimilative expectations and try to recreate white genetic traits results in unresolvable identity crises. The effect of unresolved identity crisis affects the performance of the child in adulthood, and prevents him from progressing in society. Children, like Thomson, who have reconnected with their roots feel isolated between their rediscovered indigenous families and the white communities they grew up in, not belonging to either. With a confused sense of self, they are unable to form healthy and mature relationships in adult life. (O’Connor.) Dr Leo Steiner, the head of the Aboriginal Community Crisis Team at East General Hospital says: “A child who is conflicted about his identity is severely handicapped… In adulthood, he often develops a self-centered, impulse-pleasing, self-destructive lifestyle,” because they grow up in homes where they have no way to understand who they are as a person, and in many cases, face constant abuse, they experience psychological and emotional problems. Many children break off their adoptions at 18, or run away from adoptive and foster homes during adolescence. (Dolha.
) As a result, they have no foundation to build a healthy life or grow to succeed on. Simply put, because they do not know where they come from, they do not know where they want to go. They are not held to the same standards as the white families they grew up with, and have no role models that look like them, that they may aspire to. This loss of identity is a section of the overall attempt to eliminate Aboriginal culture.To assimilate into a culture, one must take away the parental influence in order to only allow the child access to information outside of that culture – this is exactly what the Canadian Government did in residential schools, and then during the Sixties Scoop. In this way, the Sixties Scoop affected Canadian history by practicing cultural genocide against the Indigenous. Through the sixties scoop, the Canadian government essentially prevented the development of the Aboriginal culture. Children are highly valued in all Aboriginal communities, as they are the key to preserving culture through an intergenerational process of knowledge.
(O’Connor.) By removing children from their communities, provincial welfare systems destroyed this framework of knowledge by repressing traditional educational methods, and therefore preventing cultural development and continuity. Furthermore, through the sixties scoop, the government weakened family structures, and therefore weakened aboriginal society. Children became sometimes permanently estranged from their families; Aboriginal surname act as postal codes that indicate where a child it from, and during their adoption processes their family names were taken away from them. (O’Connor.
) In some cases, personal histories completely vanishes because of incomplete, false or missing adoption records. This means that countless stolen children are unable to ever reconnect with their families. Maria Brown Martel, a victim of the Scoop, says that after she was apprehended at the age of nine, her name was changed. When she attempted to reconnect with her birth family at 18, she found out that a federal register listed her as deceased under her original name. The children that were able to find their families were unable to connect with their past because of the loss of their native language.
Brown Martel claims that when she found her birth parents, the absence of her Ojibwe language made connections with her family extremely difficult: “How do you talk about your emotions when you cannot even speak the words?”(Bokma.) Brown Martel story parallels that of countless other families that were unable to reconnect after the Sixties Scoop. The sheer number of Aboriginal families that were torn apart during the Sixties Scoop is evident through the increase in the number of children in the welfare system: In the 1950’s, Aboriginal children made up only one percent of children in the welfare system.
However, by the 1960’s, they accounted for more than one third (Canadian Encyclopedia.) Ultimately, the Sixties Scoop destroyed the close-knit Aboriginal community by causing families to be unable to reconnect, contributing to the overall loss of Aboriginal culture.The loss of the collective Aboriginal culture has inspired a mass political movement in hopes of reconciliation. In 2009, Marcia Brown Martel filed a class action lawsuit against the canadian government on behalf of almost 1, 200 other victims of the sixties scoop.
However, it took until February 1st, 2017 for the federal government to be ready to negotiate the 1.3 billion dollar lawsuit. On October 6, Ontario supreme court judge Edward Belobaba ruled in favour of the sixties scoop victims, announcing a 800 million dollar settlement. (Perkel.) This lawsuit held Canada to it’s constitutional responsibility to protect and preserve the aboriginal culture and brought attention to the fact that so many children lost their cultural identities. Jeffrey Wilson, the lawyer that represented the victims says that: “This is the first case in the western world where Indigenous people have come forward to say that culture is as important as land, fishing, and hunting rights.
” (Perkel.)This claim has brought attention to the lost generation created by the Sixties Scoop. It proves that Canada has turned a blind eye towards the wellbeing of children who lost their cultural identity, immediate and extended families, communities, language, spirituality, traditions, and customs.
(About The Sixties Scoop Claim.) Although $800 million may never be enough to compensate for these devastating losses, Wilson believes that ” Canada really is a hero, because this is the first country, in a world of increasing divisiveness, that has said we respect and recognize the right to a cultural identity.” The acknowledgement of the suffering of victims of the Sixties Scoop is a step towards preventing cultural genocide in the future, and providing support to those who have already suffered through this. The results of the Sixties Scoop have proven that the welfare system was faulty because its workers lacked understanding of aboriginal culture, therefore they promoted negative assumptions against Indigenous people. Welfare workers did not understand of approve of aboriginal culture; their own cultural superiority was a driving force behind the sixties scoop. Their views on a healthy family and community life was based off their own white, middle-class values. Cultural activities such as fishing and carving, having a diet of dried game and berries, was labelled as “inadequate care,” and the belief that a child had as many parents that took care of them as there were were adults in the community was labelled as “improper supervision.
” Their attitude towards the Indigenous families was condescending, which goes to show how mainstream canadian society did not hold Aboriginal families and culture to as high a standard as their own. Instead, they chose to assimilate a generation by placing them in families and communities they considered “normal.” The Saskatchewan Social Services department set up a program called AIM, or Adopt Indian and Metis, which specifically targeted indigenous families with an aim of adopting out their children into white families.The province also funded the advertisement of Indigenous children on television, over the radio and in newspapers to convince white families to adopt Indigenous children. The Canadian Digital archives has countless advertisements with misleading titles such as, “Out Of Nowhere, Into Here: Protect a Metis child from having a lonely, uncertain future.
” (Stevenson.) In 1971, the Metis society of Saskatchewan challenged the use of these ads through several campaigns against the government department responsible for this program, they believes that “These ads are racist propaganda against the Métis and Indian people.” The AIM program was detrimental towards the Indigenous Community because it encouraged the idea that all Indigenous and Metis parents were unable to look after their children; the ads suggested that indigenous children were so unwanted and desperate for new homes that they would accept any new family. (Stevenson.) In this way, Aboriginal people were stereotyped as incapable and unfit parents. When people became aware of the welfare systems insensitivity towards Aboriginal people, policies were changed in order to prevent a recurrence of the Sixties Scoop.
In Manitoba, Indigenous people were shocked at the out-of-province removals of Aboriginal children. Statistics from that time revealed that 55 percent of children that were moved to out-of-province adoption homes in 1981 were sent to the United States. (Dolha) In 1982, after facing severe criticism, Manitoba banned out-of-province adoptions and appointed Judge Edwin C Kimmelman to lead an inquiry into the the provincial welfare system and its effect on Aboriginal people. After reviewing 93 adoption cases, Kimmelman found that nothing had gone towards finding aboriginal children aboriginal homes, and that Manitoba on its own had placed up to 3000 documented children into white homes over a period of twenty years.
(Dolha.) During this time, the number of Indigenous and Metis children made up 7.5 percent of the total population of Manitoba, but accounted for 41.
9 percent of the children in foster and adoptive homes. (The Canadian Encyclopedia.) In his final review in 1985, called No Quiet Place: Review Committee on Indian and Metis Adoptions and Placements, Kimmelman stated that: “Cultural genocide has been taking place in a systematic, routine manner,” and that this was caused by an “abysmal lack of sensitivity to children and families.” Kimmelman recommended several changes to the Manitoba child welfare legislation, including consideration of “the child’s cultural and linguistic heritage,” as well as the implementation of cultural awareness training for any welfare worker involved with the Aboriginal community and its people.(Aboriginal Justice Implementation Commision.
) Another one of his recommendations was that “greater use be made of the extended family” and that the “adoption into a non-aboriginal home be used only as a last resort.” (Aboriginal Justice Implementation Commision.) For this reason, the welfare policy was changed to prioritize extended family members and then another Indigenous family, before the child could be placed in a non-aboriginal home. His report also inspired other changes in 1990, when the federal government created the First Nations Child and Family Services Program (FNCFS.) This allowed Indigenous councils administer their own child and family services on reserves, in accordance with provincial and territorial welfare legislations. (Aboriginal Justice Implementation Commision.
) From the early 1960’s to the late 1980’s, the government turned a blind eye to the traumatic effects of the Sixties Scoop, a time period which left a deep scar in Canadian history. The Sixties Scoop has had a destructive effect on the Aboriginal Identity, which in turn prevented Indigenous individuals from progressing in society. Additionally, The Sixties Scoop was responsible for the genocide of the Indigenous culture, and resulted in a present day political movement towards reconciliation.
Finally, the Sixties Scoop brought attention to the injustices towards Indigenous children and families within Canada’s welfare system, which inspired changes towards a better future. After residential schools, the child welfare system became Canada’s new form of colonization, that mainstream society considered to be “for the best.” The practice of kidnapping children from their homes was disguised as placement into foster care, the heartbroken parents left behind were labelled as negligent and incompetent. In their attempt to paint their nation white, Canadians tried to remove the Indigenous people from their history, but they forgot that Canada’s history began with the Indigenous.