Canada seeks to com­pen­sate indige­nous taken from fam­i­lies

Imperial Valley Press - - CLASSIFIED -

TORONTO (AP) — Colleen Car­di­nal of­ten won­dered why her par­ents turned bright red in the sun but she grew dark along with her sis­ters. The puz­zle was solved when she was a young teen, and the woman she had thought of as her mother dis­closed that she had been picked out of a cat­a­log of na­tive chil­dren avail­able for adop­tion.

Car­di­nal was one of thou­sands of indige­nous chil­dren taken from their birth fam­i­lies from the 1960s to mid-1980s and sent to live with white fam­i­lies, who of­fi­cials at the time in­sisted could give them bet­ter care. Many lost touch with their orig­i­nal cul­ture and lan­guage.

It echoes the his­tory of res­i­den­tial schools in Canada. Some 150,000 First Na­tions, Inuit and Metis chil­dren were taken from their fam­i­lies over much of the last cen­tury and put in gov­ern­ment schools, where they were forced to con­vert to Chris­tian­ity and not al­lowed to speak their na­tive lan­guages. Many were beaten and ver­bally abused, and up to 6,000 are said to have died.

The gov­ern­ment has since apol­o­gized and o ered com­pen­sa­tion for the vic­tims of res­i­den­tial schools, and now it’s pay­ing com­pen­sa­tion for what is known as the “Six­ties Scoop” in which chil­dren were es­sen­tially scooped up from reser­va­tions and their na­tive fam­i­lies. But many say the set­tle­ment is too lit­tle, too late.

Car­di­nal says it won’t undo what was for her a trau­matic ex­pe­ri­ence. She was taken from her Plains Cree fam­ily in Al­berta and sent to a home about 1,600 miles away along­side a lake in ru­ral On­tario, where she said her two older sis­ters were sex­u­ally abused.

“We had to flee that home to es­cape from phys­i­cal and sex­ual vi­o­lence. My two older sis­ters were sex­u­ally mo­lested,” Car­di­nal said.

A few years ear­lier Car­di­nal had been shocked to find out she was na­tive.

“As a child you want to hear that you are loved and peo­ple wanted you,” Car­di­nal said. “What I heard in­stead was, ‘Well, we picked you out of a cat­a­log of na­tive chil­dren up for adop­tion.’”

The only cat­a­log Car­di­nal knew was the Sears cat­a­log — not the lists from gov­ern­ment or re­li­gious or­ga­ni­za­tions that in­cluded pic­tures of chil­dren avail­able for adop­tion.

“I was think­ing, ‘There was a cat­a­log of na­tive kids like me?’ That stayed in my mind for­ever — that I was picked out of a cat­a­log of na­tive chil­dren,” she said.

The sur­vivors of the “Six­ties Scoop” be­gan su­ing the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment in 2010, claim­ing dam­ages for the loss of their lan­guage, cul­ture and iden­tity. On­tario Su­pe­rior Court Jus­tice Ed­ward Belob­aba ruled last Fe­bru­ary that Canada had breached its “duty of care” to the chil­dren and found the gov­ern­ment li­able.

A tear­ful Indige­nous Re­la­tions Min­is­ter Carolyn Ben­nett an­nounced the set­tle­ment in early Oc­to­ber.

“This pol­icy was based on race,” Ben­nett said in an in­ter­view later with The As­so­ci­ated Press. “It was un­con­scionable that gov­ern­ment thought that would be bet­ter for the child.

“We know now that it re­ally isn’t. In terms of health, ed­u­ca­tion or eco­nomic out­comes, it is a dis­as­ter to take kids away from their lan­guage, their cul­ture, their com­mu­nity, their ex­tended fam­ily.”

The Six­ties Scoop set­tle­ment for an es­ti­mated 20,000 peo­ple is aimed at re­solv­ing nu­mer­ous re­lated law­suits. The sur­vivors will share $586 mil­lion, with in­di­vid­ual amounts to be de­ter­mined later.

Car­di­nal said she might in­vest the money.

“Fifty thou­sand is not very much money,” she said. “That’s like one year in­come for a mid­dle class worker.”

Car­di­nal, 44, is happy the gov­ern­ment has set aside an ad­di­tional 50 mil­lion dol­lars for a heal­ing and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion foun­da­tion. She is the co-founder and co­or­di­na­tor of the Na­tional Indige­nous Sur­vivors of Child Wel­fare Net­work, which brings to­gether sur­vivors to talk and heal. She now lives in Ot­tawa and is teach­ing her four chil­dren about their na­tive cul­ture.

Many re­main close to their adop­tive fam­i­lies, but some, like Car­di­nal, say they were scarred by the ex­pe­ri­ence. She be­lieves she was taken from her birth par­ents to be as­sim­i­lated. Most of her bi­o­log­i­cal fam­ily has passed away and she wasn’t able to con­nect with them in the way she had wanted.

But her or­ga­ni­za­tion has helped others re­con­nect. Brent Mitchell was taken from his mother in Man­i­toba when he was 1 and shipped o to New Zealand when he was 5. Records in­di­cate there was al­co­hol abuse in his birth home. But he said he en­dured beat­ings and ver­bal taunts in the foster homes in New Zealand and sex­ual abuse out­side it by a preda­tor. He strug­gled to re­cover, at­tempt­ing sui­cide at three di er­ent points in his life.


In this Sept. 26, photo, Colleen Car­di­nal, co-founder of the Na­tional Indige­nous Sur­vivors of Child Wel­fare Net­work speaks to the press in Ot­tawa, Canada. Car­di­nal, from a Plains Cree fam­ily in Al­berta, was one of thou­sands of indige­nous chil­dren taken...

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