|Wayne Snellgrove (center) lives in Miami (File Photo)|
US national swimming champion Wayne William Snellgrove, one of the victims of Canada’s so-called “Scoop” program, an adoption scheme though which Aboriginal Canadian children were placed with white families, has told RT it stripped survivors of their identities.
“They’re lost between two worlds, they’re not part of the native culture and they don’t assimilate well with the white culture. They’ve lost their identity and it’s a really sad thing,” Snellgrove told RT about the thousands of kids who were taken from their homes from the 1960s to the 1980s, of which he was one.
Snellgrove himself was taken from his Saskatchewan mother at birth in the 1970s, and spent the first few years of his life in the care of the Canadian government. He was eventually adopted by a white family in the United States, and did not meet his birth mother until he was 32.
“I realized I had been in mourning my entire life and didn’t even know it,” he told RT of the adoption.
Snellgrove also recounted some the fraught historical context for the misguided and damaging adoption policy.
“They [white European settlers] have a very dark history of the way they treated the Aboriginal population. They tortured, they killed them, they murdered them, they raped them. All these stories are part of my story they’re part of my culture.”
The swimming champ recalled feeling out of place and lost with his American family. Though Snellgrove says he was placed into a loving home and that his adoptive parents tried their best to raise him, he was still plagued by depression and could not assimilate into white culture.
“They gave me every opportunity, but the thing is I’m not white. I did not assimilate well into white culture… There were still feelings of loss and abandonment as to why I was with the family I was with,” he said.
Though Snellgrove got the chance to meet his mother after hiring a private investigator and searching for her for seven years, he says that others are not so lucky.
“There were hundreds of kids taken from my reserve, hundreds of kids taken across Canada – thousands of kids. And from my reserve I was the third one to make it back – the third one ever to touch my ancestral lands again,” he told RT.
Many of these children are now seeking reparations from the Canadian government. More than 1,800 people have signed onto a class action suit lawsuit. The plaintiffs are being represented by the Merchant Law Group, which served the federal government with the suit in late January.
Tony Merchant, the head legal counsel at Merchant, claims that children suffered physical, psychological and sexual abuse as a result of the program. He criticized it as a misguided paternalistic attempt at assimilating Aboriginal Canadian children.
"It was part of the paternalistic approach, that if we could get children out of the hands of Aboriginal people, we could give them a better life in the future by taking away their culture and turning red children into white adults," he was quoted as saying by CBC.