Sur­vivors of ’60s Scoop say Moe’s words just a start

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It’s the same thing that’s been hap­pen­ing since they first started tak­ing us away. Noth­ing’s changed.Sur­vivors of the ’60s Scoop in Saskatchewan are hop­ing an apol­ogy from the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment comes with ac­tion to re­duce the num­ber of chil­dren in care.Premier Scott Moe is to apol­o­gize on Mon­day morn­ing at the leg­is­la­ture.About 20,000 Indige­nous chil­dren were seized from their birth fam­i­lies and re­lo­cated to non-indige­nous homes start­ing in the 1950s un­til the late 1980s.The prac­tice stripped them of their lan­guage, cul­ture and fam­ily ties.Al­berta and Man­i­toba have al­ready apol­o­gized for their role in the ap­pre­hen­sions.Sur­vivor Kerry Opoonechaw-bel­le­garde, who is 43, said Saskatchewan needs to do more than say sorry.“An apol­ogy is re­ally easy to put to­gether, but for it to have mean­ing be­hind it, (the prov­ince needs) to prove to us that there’s some­thing go­ing on be­hind the scenes.”Opoonechaw-bel­le­garde, who is from Regina, plans to be there in per­son for the apol­ogy and hopes to speak with Moe to ask him to re­work fos­ter care in the prov­ince.The num­ber of chil­dren in outof-home care in Saskatchewan stood at 5,227 at the end of Septem­ber.“Too many ba­bies (are) grow­ing up with­out their mom and dad,” Opoonechaw-bel­le­garde said.Ge­orge Scheel­haase, 49, is a sur­vivor who won­ders how the gov­ern­ment can apol­o­gize when Indige­nous par­ents are still los­ing chil­dren to fos­ter care and child and fam­ily ser­vices in what he says are record num­bers.“It’s the same thing that’s been hap­pen­ing since they first started tak­ing us away. Noth­ing’s changed,” Scheel­haase said. “What’s an apol­ogy when there’s no change?”Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials de­clined in­ter­view re­quests.The gov­ern­ment has said it has an agree­ment with an as­so­ci­a­tion of ’60s Scoop sur­vivors that com­pen­sa­tion will not be part of the apol­ogy.A fed­eral court last year ap­proved a $750-mil­lion agree­ment that would see Ot­tawa pay sur­vivors as much as $50,000 each. An ef­fort by some plain­tiffs to chal­lenge the set­tle­ment was tossed by a judge in Novem­ber.Sur­vivor Christina Nakonechny said it’s not just about money, but about mak­ing things right.“Money doesn’t take away ev­ery­thing that hap­pened,” she said. “I feel I was erased. My grand­chil­dren don’t know any of their un­cles or aun­ties.”Shar­ing cir­cles were held in Saskatchewan in Oc­to­ber and Novem­ber for sur­vivors to talk about their ex­pe­ri­ences. Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials at­tended and Opoonechaw-bel­le­garde said the one she par­tic­i­pated in was in­tense.She said the ses­sion opened wounds for some sur­vivors and she ex­pects a lot of tears dur­ing the apol­ogy.Robert Doucette, a sur­vivor and co-chair of an as­so­ci­a­tion of ’60s Scoop sur­vivors, said the shar­ing cir­cles were use­ful. A re­port from the as­so­ci­a­tion was pre­sented to the gov­ern­ment cau­cus Dec. 3 and Doucette be­lieves the mes­sage was heard.He, too, hopes the apol­ogy brings a change and sug­gests it’s one of the first steps in rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.“I wanted to hear the gov­ern­ment say sorry for what they did,” he said from Saska­toon. “It only val­i­dates what we be­lieved all along that, due to cir­cum­stances, our fam­ily was not wrong for what was go­ing on.”Opoonechaw-bel­le­garde, whose par­ents were res­i­den­tial school sur­vivors, hopes Moe also apol­o­gizes to sur­vivors’ par­ents.“That was their kids taken away for no rea­son,” she said. “I’m sure they suf­fered im­mensely.”

Robert Doucette

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