’60s Scoop apology made by Saskatchewan NDP, requests for records continue

Ryan Meili said past Saskatchewan NDP governments share responsibility for the carrying out the ’60s Scoop policy that affected many lives. Michael Bell / The Canadian Press

The Saskatchewan NDP apologized in the legislature Thursday to everyone affected by the ‘60s Scoop.

Past NDP governments share responsibility for carrying out the policy that affected many lives, Opposition Leader Ryan Meili said.

“We must also ask for forgiveness for the harm done to children, for the pain caused to parents, and for the damages to communities,” Meili said.

“With this apology, we hope the healing can begin and that we can work toward change.”

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

Members of the Sixties Scoop Indigenous Society of Saskatchewan (SSISS) were at the legislature for the apology.

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The Saskatchewan Party apologized in January on behalf of the government to all survivors of the ‘60s Scoop.

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

The SSISS submitted a list of recommendations to the government as part of the apology process but it was not made public, the NDP said, and they had to obtain it through a freedom of information request.

Accessing ’60s Scoop records

The recommendations included creating a task force to find records, a public awareness campaign, continuing the sharing circles, and the creation of a research team to find ways to reduce the number of kids in care, the NDP said.

WATCH: Coverage of the ’60s Scoop apology and settlement

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Meili said during question period the recommendations were being ignored. Social Services Minister Paul Merriman defended his government’s record, stating work has started.

SSISS co-chair Melissa Parkyn said she was disappointed in the exchange between Meili and Merriman. She was hoping to hear more on what future work would be done on their recommendations.

“It was good, the apology, but still they promised us they would continue to work with us and recognize the survivors; that this wasn’t the end,” Parkyn said.

“They would keep working with us and to continue public awareness and continue working with us on the no records, which is the most important stuff that needs to be addressed.”

About 20,000 Indigenous children were seized from their birth families and relocated to non-Indigenous homes starting in the 1950s until the late 1980s.

READ MORE: ’60s Scoop settlement worth $875M approved by federal judge after Saskatoon hearings

Accessing records, like adoption papers and foster family history, is essential for scoop survivors looking to access their share of the federal government’s $875 million settlement.

Merriman says the province has an 85 per cent success rate in returning these records, but some have been lost to time. The minister said the province will not be making a task force to find these records, as recommended by the SSISS but will work with clients on a case-by-case basis.

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Doucette said he does not know exactly how many survivors are having trouble, but has seen letters to 20 or 25 survivors indicating their records have been lost. He added the SSISS have filed several access to information requests seeking more information, and responses say the records held “no historical significance.”

“As a ’60s Scoop survivor, let me tell you something, that really shakes you to the core. That seems to be a trend with a lot of governments that our history as Metis and First Nations people is of no significance,” Doucette said.

“When you treat individuals, and communities and people like that it comes back to bite you sooner or later.”

Merriman said government workers are able to try and help track down records that may exist out of province. When speaking to the media he offered extra help for those that can’t access their records.

“I’d be more than happy to personally write a letter to be able to help them out with the process on the federal class action lawsuit,” Merriman said.

On survivors wanting records involving past foster homes not to be redacted, Merriman said they are bound by existing privacy laws.

When pressed by reporters if the government accepted the recommendations put forward by the SSISS, Merriman repeatedly discussed work the province is doing and said this apology helped secure a child and family services agreement with the Saskatoon Tribal Council. Eventually, he said he had talked about the previously private recommendations list with the SSISS.

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“I accept everything the ’60s Scoop group has said and talked about. There was a paper that they had submitted, I’ve read through it, we’ve talked about it. We had met with both co-chairs, the premier, myself and [First Nations, Metis, and Northern Affairs ] Minister [Warren] Kaeding, met with both co-chairs,” Merriman said.

The SSISS said they have not been able to meet with Merriman since the apology took place in January, and have put forward a few requests. Merriman said he has only received one request for a meeting since the apology, but with a different survivors group.

Merriman said he’d given his cell number out to SSISS leadership during the consultation process.

Despite debate in the legislature Thursday, Doucette said they still greatly appreciate the apology and that both sides need to keep working together in order to ensure something like the ’60s Scoop does not happen again.

“When ministers and the premier say this isn’t the end I’m going to hold them to that,” Doucette said.

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