A survivor of the 60s Scoop on what's been lost and how to move forward.
|Tasha Hubbard was adopted out through the Saskatchewan Adopt Indian
Metis (AIM) pilot project, designed to place Indigenous children six and
under into non-Indigenous homes. (Her photo)|
OP-ED by Tasha Hubbard | Jul 10 2015 | Toronto Star
On a hot July afternoon, a social worker handed me over to a young Saskatchewan farming couple.
I was three months old, and my adoptive mother
tells me I wouldn’t stop crying. She eventually realized I was too hot
because my foster mother had dressed me in all the clothes that I
I was born Carrie Alaine Pinay in 1973 to a
young Saulteaux/Metis/Cree mother who found herself alone and with
limited support from family or from social services. She made a
difficult decision, and decided to surrender me to a social worker she
trusted. Her grandparents and parents and my Cree/Nakota father had been
forced to attend residential school. After I met my birth parents as a
teenager, I began to learn that my family network has been affected by a
genocidal system engineered to dismantle nations by taking children
away and inflicting pain, shame, and self-hatred.
I was adopted out through the Saskatchewan
Adopt Indian Metis (AIM) pilot project, designed to place Indigenous
children six and under into non-Indigenous homes. The AIM project ran
from 1967 to 1974, putting over 1,000 children in adoptive homes, some
outside of the province and even outside of Canada.
It was thought by some of the program’s
administrators that if children were taken from their families at a
young enough age, they would not have any “Indian or Metis” imprinting,
and only their pigmentation would be different from their adoptive
families. In my case, the social worker encouraged my young adoptive
parents to raise me with the knowledge of being “an Indian.” They did
their best to do that, they raised me with love, and they supported me
to search for my birth parents, whom I found when I turned 16. I know in
many ways, my experience was the exception.
Thousands of children were “scooped” across
Canada in the 1960s, 70s and even in the 80s, inflicting further damage
to Indigenous family structures already reeling from the impact of the
residential schools. Many times, parents were forced into surrendering
their newborns, told that their children would suffer if allowed to
stay. Other children were taken out of homes that were deemed
insufficient by middle-class standards, but were often intact and
loving. Siblings were more often than not sent to different homes,
sometimes scattered across North America.
The so-called Scoop resulted in a generation
of children, some 20,000, being raised outside of their families and
communities, and without connection to their lands, ceremonies, and
language. Many foster and adoptive parents were abusive and inflicted
painful external and internal scars. As with the Indian Residential
School system, the Scoop was part of a government effort to erase
In early June, the Truth and Reconciliation
Commission issued its report, telling the painful stories of survivors
and their families, and we are beginning to see the first glimmers of
grappling with these dark parts of Canada’s history.
Alberta has pledged to join the North West
Territories and Nunavut in including Residential School history as part
of their school curriculum. While this is a promising step - and ought
to be followed promptly by all provinces across the country -
educational reforms must also include learning materials that expose the
colonial roots that underlay the residential school system and the
Scoop and continue to guide current policies involving Indigenous
Some universities, too, have begun to do their
part. The University of Saskatchewan announced last week that it is
joining several other western schools in supporting the education of
youth who have emerged from the child welfare system. The U of S has
stepped it up a notch, offering tuition for up to five years as well as
comprehensive living expenses and other supports. Other universities
need to offer similar options for Indigenous students, many of whom,
despite perceptions, are not eligible for band funding.
There is clearly also a fledgling process of
reflection now underway among some of Canada’s governments. Alberta’s
new premier Rachel Notley apologized for the Alberta government’s
inaction on residential schools. In Manitoba, Premier Greg Selinger
apologized to those children and families affected by the 60s Scoop.
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall formally announced his intention to
apologize in the near future.
But while apologies can be a good first step
(if they are sincere), words can only do so much; they also must come
with efforts to address the wrongs done with reparations. Federal,
provincial and territorial leaders looking for somewhere to start ought
to read, in full, the TRC’s calls to action, some of which are updates
of unimplemented recommendations made by the Royal Commission on
Aboriginal Peoples back in 1996.
To achieve justice, all of Canada needs to
understand that the bluntly oppressive systems implemented from the
beginning of Canada’s existence as a state continue to be a lived legacy
for both Indigenous peoples and Canadians. And justice requires the
will to change that legacy.
is a filmmaker and assistant professor of Indigenous literature and
media at the University of Saskatchewan. She is a member of the
Peepeekisis First Nation. An earlier version was published on the
Broadbent Institute website.
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in sacred humility,
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