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Monday, September 4, 2023

Mystery: Where is Alex James Sutherland

Alex

Survivors of Sixties scoop want to know why province is sending long-lost brother’s mail to childhood home  | IG News

EARLIER STORY

The siblings of a Métis man who has been missing for decades – ever since he was captured as a child during a sixties scoop – want to know why the Manitoba government keeps sending him requests for address verification.  The mail is mailed to the same house that the province seized the kids more than 45 years ago.

“Even after all these years, when my parents are dead, the cards are still coming in the mail,” Sandra Myers said. “Somebody know something.”

Their brother, Alex James Sutherland, was only five years old when child welfare officials apprehended him, along with his six siblings, from their Camperville, Manitoba, home in 1976.

It was part of the notoriously disastrous sixties scoop – in which thousands of Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their homes and placed with non-Indigenous families as far away as the US and Europe during the period from 1951 to 1991.

They say that Alex and his siblings, including Sandra Myers, were captured under false pretenses.  Child welfare officials claimed that his father drank heavily and abused the children.

Myers said, “I’m kind of surprised. I don’t remember there being any abuse.”

A woman with short black hair, brown eyes and brown glasses is looking directly into the camera.
Sandra Myers is shown in a photo from her Facebook page. She hopes that her brother will reach out to his family. ‘If you can hear it, look me up on Facebook,’ she says. ‘And know that I will not give up until I find you.’ (Sandra Myers/Facebook)

Meanwhile, his mother thought the fears were temporary and agreed to sign a document allowing child welfare officials to vaccinate the children.

Instead, she signed away rights as a parent.

Sutherland’s sister Marge McGillivray said, “My mother couldn’t read or write and they gave her a piece of paper and pen.  She didn’t even know she was signing us away.”

A curious clue

Three siblings, including Myers, were adopted in Louisiana.  McGillivray remained in Manitoba, moving between foster homes until reuniting with her parents as a teenager.

However, Alex Sutherland was never heard from again.

“I’ve heard from other people, but this one’s just gone,” McGillivray says.

In 2016, the siblings went public with their discovery, sharing their story with the CBC.

Through the years, as the story aired, so did the tips.  Some childhood friends arrive with memories of going to school with Alex in Mafeking, Maine.

The siblings later heard rumors that Alex was in Thompson, Manitoba.  Or Maine.  Another time, he heard he might be in Alberta.  Second time, Ontario.

Then, a few years ago, a curious clue turned up in his parents’ post office box.

The province began sending health card registration verifications addressed to Alex James Sutherland – sent to his childhood home in Camperville.

An ID card that reads 'Alex J Sutherland.  Camperville MB'
A few years ago, the province began sending health card registration verifications to Alex James Sutherland at his childhood home in Camperville. (Submitted by Sandra Myers)

As of 2023, they’re still coming.

McGillivray said, “That’s why my mom and dad thought he was still alive and in Manitoba.”

Now, the family wants to know why a provincial department is sending mail to Sutherland’s childhood home – and, as far as the province is concerned, it was his last known address.

‘I’m not giving up hope’

In a written statement, a provincial spokesperson said that if a person has not used their Manitoba health card in the past 12 months, the province sends a verification notice to the last address on file, “to ensure that his address is still current and there is no new change in his health card,” the spokesperson said.

According to the spokesperson, if the notice is returned marked “return to sender”, the health card is suspended.

They would not elaborate on whether they would send verification for a health card that was inactive for more than 12 months.

“We are engaging in speculation here that we cannot comment on,” the emailed statement said.

Meanwhile, the Manitoba Métis Federation also has questions about Sutherland, and has offered to help the family find answers.

“The federation is pleased to be working with the family to get to the bottom of this,” Francis Chartrand, vice-president of the Northwest region, said in a written statement.

“It always saddens us when we learn of survivors of sixties scoops in our area who still haven’t gotten to their homes.”

The Metis Federation, through its Sixties Scoop department, can provide the family with “wraparound programs and services tailored to the needs of individual survivors,” Chartrand said.

Myers said she would be grateful for the federation’s support.

“If anything can help find him, I’d be glad,” she said.

“I never stop searching for him. I’m not giving up hope. I know he’s out there.”

She also had a message for her brother.

Myers says, “I’m reaching out to you and if you can hear it, check me out on Facebook. And know that I will not give up until I find you or know where you are.”

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