January 7, 2019 7:07 pm
Updated: January 8, 2019 7:34 am

’60s Scoop survivors call on more work, FSIN wants adoption moratorium

WATCH ABOVE: Premier Scott Moe apologized on behalf of Saskatchewan for the '60s Scoop, but survivors say more still needs to happen to keep kids out of government care. David Baxter reports.

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Saskatchewan’s ’60s Scoop apology is an acknowledgement of past wrongs and the pain caused to survivors of the government’s adoption policy that saw thousands of First Nations and Metis children removed from their homes and communities. They were primarily adopted by white families across Canada, and into the United States.

This apology was informed by a series of sharing circles in six communities organized by 60s Scoop Indigenous Survivors Saskatchewan (SSISS).

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“I heard the two words that I wanted to hear today, ‘I’m sorry’, from the premier of Saskatchewan,” SSISS co-chair Robert Doucette said.

“It’s a first step forward. We need to look at how we can reconciliate and build a better province and live together.”

READ MORE: Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe apologizes to ’60s Scoop survivors

A child of the ’60s Scoop, Doucette said he’s been waiting all his life to hear this apology.

“When you’re a ’60s Scoop kid you face all the isms, you know, the racism. In [Prince Albert] when I was growing up, when you were a little kid you were being called “chief”  and “Indian”,” Doucette said.

“Growing up in a non-Indigenous family and they’re not the same colour as you and it really makes you think why is this happening?”

Doucette is not alone in this. Irene Peepeetch from Sakimay First Nation lost her cultural identity in the scoop.

“The foster home I was in didn’t even know I was Indigenous,” she said. “I have seven brothers and three sisters. There’s a disconnect because they never really got to know me. So I’m trying to make family connections again.”

“A lot of things have been lost. I just look at the welfare system now. There’s got to be a lot of changes, because I see the same things happening.”

Doucette is not alone in this. Irene Peepeetch from Sakimay First Nation lost her cultural identity in the scoop.

“The foster home I was in didn’t even know I was Indigenous,” she said. “I have seven brothers and three sisters. There’s a disconnect because they never really got to know me. So I’m trying to make family connections again.”

“A lot of things have been lost. I just look at the welfare system now. There’s got to be a lot of changes, because I see the same things happening.”

Child and Family Services

With this apology came the further acknowledgement that more still needs to be done to mend harm caused by past policies like residential schools and the scoop. The role of child and family services played front and center in this.

Currently, Saskatchewan has a record number of kids in out-of-home care, 5,227 – about 70 per cent are Indigenous. Of these children, 61 per cent are in ministry care in facilities like foster homes. The remaining 39 per cent are under the care of a legal guardian.

An additional 2,700 children are with their families, while they receive in-home services to keep them together.

The province has agreements with 17 First Nations based child and family service organizations, helping deal with cases in 60 First Nations communities.

“Every avenue is exhausted to keep that child near their family or in their community so that there culture and their history is not lost,” Premier Scott Moe said.

Survivors like Doucette would like to see more resources dedicated to helping families before social services need to be involved.

“This province needs to ground its work in community based organizations and also with the communities like they did with the 60s Scoop survivors. We’re a community based organization and look what has happened,” Doucette said – referring to the apology.

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) issued a statement Monday, saying they welcome the apology but Indigenous children need to stop being removed from their homes.

“The apology is a good start but this Government must end the apprehension of our children and immediately cease adoptions of First Nations children into non-First Nations homes,”  said FSIN Vice Chief David Pratt.

The FSIN called on further jurisdiction for First Nations when if comes to handling child welfare policy.

READ MORE: ‘This is a historic moment’: Doucette sees ’60s Scoop apology as healing moment

Prior to the FSIN’s statement, Moe said the the province has a constitutional responsibility to ensure that children live in a safe environment and to intervene if that safety in compromised.

In a statement, the province said 51 children were placed with families for domestic adoption in Saskatchewan last year; 41 are of Indigenous ancestry. Prospective parents complete PRIDE training, which includes a “significant” Indigenous cultural competent designed for Saskatchewan.  When Indigenous children are placed with a family, all plans are discussed with the Indigenous Child and Family Services agency.

Dancers perform as part of the grand entry at the ’60s Scoop apology

Derek Putz/Global News

Further action

While the apology highlighted improvements that have been made to help ensure more kids in government care remain in their communities, there was little talk of further action. This did not sit well with Yorkton Tribal Council resolution health support worker Iris Acoose.

“I would have liked to hear[Moe] say from this day forward, because I’m making an apology, it means I’m going to take some kind of action. I’m not going to do what’s been done and I’m going to take some kind of action to rectify the wrong that was done,” Acoose said.

READ MORE: ’60s Scoop survivors in Saskatchewan want change, not just apology

However, Acoose said she believes this public apology validates the pain and trauma of survivors.

“I believe from that point on healing can happen.”

Scoop survivor Wanda Wapash works in the family court system, counselling children in the foster care system. For her, this work has been a source of healing.

“I didn’t have a worker when I was a foster child, so by the time I was 15, 16 I was running away. So I can relate to some of the children were in care and some of the abuse they went through,”

Wapash said. “So that’s how I want to make change and it helps me, like therapy in a way, cause I’m helping others and doing God’s work.”

Overall, it meant a lot for Wapash to be at the apology and has a sense of hope that things will eventually change for the better.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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