The Sixties Scoop was a dark event in Canada’s past.
It involved the mass removal of indigenous children from their homes, often without the consent of the families, to be brought into the child welfare system. It was common practice for social workers to go to reserves and take children by the bus load (an actual bus was used in some cases) and put into non-indigenous households, usually leading to the loss of culture, language and traditions. It was seen as a spin-off of residential schools and less violent form of cultural genocide.
While many think this epidemic is a thing of the past, it’s still very much impacting indigenous children and families today.
The continuing apprehension of indigenous children is being called the Millennium Scoop. The term was first coined by John Beaucage. McGill University says the First Nations leader was enlisted to look into the treatment of Indigenous children and found that more aboriginal children (First Nations, Inuit and Metis) are in state care right now then at the height of the residential school system and the Sixties Scoop. Data from the 2016 census, released by Statistics Canada, reported that out of the 69 575 children in foster care, 44 550 of those children are aboriginal. The question of why 64 per cent of the foster care system is Indigenous, even though they only make up four per cent of the total population, is plaguing the minds of Canadians.
It’s too simple, and incorrect, to just blame the parents for their children being taken away. The reasoning is rooted much deeper. It can be contributed to the poverty that Indigenous peoples live in, the horrible living conditions, lack of social services/programs and the intergenerational trauma they suffer from.
This can be seen with Jeremy Meawasige a 16-year-old Mi’kmaq from the Picto Landing First Nation in Nova Scotia. Ojibwa Resources says that Jeremy suffers from Autism, cerebral palsy and hydrocephalus. After his mother had a stroke, it became difficult to take care of him. She didn’t have the support needed to take care of her son. The government was insisting that Jeremy be placed in an institute despite his mother’s protests. She claimed that if she was off reserve (and not indigenous), the resources necessary to keep Jeremy at home would be provided. After taking her claim to court, the Ottawa government agreed with her and Jeremy and his mother were provided the resources necessary to stay together.
Not every story has a happy ending like Jeremy and his mother’s. But their’s does illustrate the inconsistencies between the treatment of indigenous peoples and other Canadians. As Jeremy’s mother says in their trial, youth off reserve would’ve been given supports to stay with their family but the government was very eager to take a 16-year-old away from his mother.
While Indigenous children are taken because of the poor standard of living among aboriginal peoples, there are underlying factors that cause this. The Millennium Scoop and even the residential school system can be traced to a colonial legacy that aims at obliterating Indigenous identity and absorbing them into the mainstream culture.
An aboriginal woman who remained nameless told CBC News that she bounced from foster home to home and never discovered her cultural background until well into her twenties. She was deprived the care from her family and band and missed out on a culturally rich childhood. This story is a common one that highlights the cultural genocide that has been effecting indigenous children since Europeans first came to Canada.
So how can we move forward when the problem is so deep rooted and at times unknown to most people? Providing support to indigenous families and working with them to improve their living conditions is just one way to ensure this is the last generation of children scooped from their homes to be assimilated into Canadian culture. We must work together as Canadians to move forward towards a better future for indigenous children.