Regina ‘60s Scoop victims share their stories
The federal government announced an $800-million victim’s compensation package for the survivors of the ‘60s Scoop. During the Scoop, authorities took around 20,000 First Nations children from their homes between the 60s and 80s and placed them in foster care or adoptive homes.
Children involved in the Scoop continue to carry the pain to this day. Global News spoke with four Regina residents about their thoughts on the settlement, and experience in the Scoop.
Born in 1958, Maureen Desjarlais was around seven years old when she learned of the realities of the ‘60s Scoop.
“I was apprehended and taken from my family. My mom, my relatives, my culture, my identity,” she said with tears in her eyes.
“I returned home as a teenager at the age of 16. I didn’t know very much of who I was, as I was placed with a non-Aboriginal family.”
During her nine years in the foster system, Desjarlais was moved between several homes in small towns across Saskatchewan.
She did not want to discuss that time in great detail, and focus on her healing journey. She kept a tissue in her hand throughout the interview to wipe away tears brought on by recounting her experience.
A major part of Desjarlais’ healing journey has involved reconnecting with a lost culture, primarily through sweat ceremonies.
“I still hadn’t connected to all of my family, as there was a wall there that was instilled in me from when I was in a home. I felt like I didn’t belong to my family,” she said.
“So I went to the sweats and started praying.”
The sweats helped Desjarlais reconnect with her brother Peter, who was also taken in the Scoop. She he was the person she was closest with before the Scoop and they’ve been able to rekindle that bond.
“That was one thing that they couldn’t take from us was keeping us in touch with each other. It took a few years to get it going, but it did go,” Desjarlais said.
When Desjarlais first learned of Friday’s announcement, it initially brought her a sense of relief.
“I looked forward to this day where we can talk about our hurts and pains. It’s similar to what people went through in the residential [school] system,” Desjarlais said.
“We fell through the cracks as well in the system.
“There’s gotta be a place where I’m going to be able to forgive all that has happened that’s taken place. It may not be today, it may not be tomorrow, but I know it’s coming,” she said.
“I know it’s not going to compensate for the loss of my identity, my culture. I’m sorry that I can’t speak my language, or I would have said this all in Cree.”
While conflicting emotions about the settlement exist, Desjarlais is comforted in the feeling that things are going to get brighter.
“I pray for each and every one of you to take time, and to come to understand what we’ve all been through, what we walked, and to find it in each and every one of our hearts to start to live and forgive.”
“To myself, there can never be a payout of enough money in regards to what was taken from myself and others and the destruction of my family,” Rod Belanger said.
Like thousands of others, Belanger entered the foster care system when he was around three-years-old.
“They haven’t released information to me in regards to where I was before that, but the people who kept me in ‘63, I guess I came to their house in pretty rough shape,” Belanger said.
“I don’t know if it was from the foster home I was in prior. I don’t have any recollection.”
The traumatic start of life for Belanger has led to issues he grapples with to this day.
“You don’t realize or understand that within our beings that there’s security that everyone needs. And when that security isn’t there you go into survival mode,” he explained.
“A lot of us, being taken at that age, have lived in survival mode all of our lives having to protect ourselves.”
Belganer describes most of his life as having to live in fear. Much of that fear stemming from physical abuse he said he endured over the years.
“When you’re physically abused as a child, a part of you wants to remember it and a part of you doesn’t,” he said.
“A child should be in a place of safety and not in a fearful state.”
In addition to physical violence, Belanger faced name-calling and other abuse in foster care. That experience carried over into school, where he was one of the first Indigenous students to attend. He didn’t feel safe at home or at school, essentially the entire world for children of that age.
“I’ve worked on myself quite a bit to face the things that I faced as a young child in foster care.
Belanger said he would have difficulties knowing how to interact in social settings. It wasn’t until he was an adult he could begin to understand exactly what was wrong with the way he grew up.
“Having to deal with the depression, and having to deal with the ever present anxiety and having to realize that the reasons why you’re the way that you are is because of the triggers and some of the things that are going on,” he said.
“It all stems from the physical violence that a lot of us all faced.”
Like Desjarlias, Belanger has managed to find a sense of well-being and healing through getting in touch with his cultural identity. However, it is a difficult process.
“We go back and we try to reconnect to our families in the reserve systems and in our homelands, and it’s hard to identify and speak as we would if we got raised together,” Belanger said.
The youngest of 13 siblings, Belanger said that there isn’t exactly a family connection between himself and his brothers and sisters who also went through the system.
“There wasn’t that bonding that needed to take place when we were younger. Even having to live with that every day, knowing that I have sisters and brother, you always think how things would have changed if our family wouldn’t have been dismantled,” Belanger said.
Stories from two more ’60s Scoop victims can her found here.