Apology must be just the first step for government
Next week, Premier Scott Moe is expected to provide an apology to the victims of the socalled Sixties Scoop. This travesty began in the 1960s but it is still ongoing today.A simple apology won’t be good enough. The premier must rise to the occasion and put a stop to the racist policy of splitting up families and ignoring the Indigenous knowledge and culture of family ties and child raising.Since European contact we have been viewed as incapable of raising our own children and there is a long legacy of damage by boarding schools, zealous social workers and racist or misinformed social policy.The front-line victims of colonialism in Canada have been our children.This apology is an excellent opportunity for Moe to step up and repair relations with First Nations and Metis people. His brief tenure as Sask. Party leader has been one of acrimonious relations with the First Nations and Metis people.We had the teepee camp on the legislature lawn that the government wanted removed. To his credit, Regina police Chief Evan Bray refused to move in and evict the protesters. Instead, he met with the campers and built a relationship that resulted in a peaceful solution. Had the government had its way, Regina would have had a black eye as another prairie city where racist policies held sway.We also have the changes to the trespass legislation which gives landowners enhanced power that could result in a situation where a landowner might shoot first and ask questions later. The government must clearly state that human rights trump property rights. Instead, it is appealing to the Sask. Party base while throwing Indigenous people under the bus.While an apology is a good thing, it must be the beginning of meaningful change. The Sixties Scoop is still government policy and being implemented every day. It can’t be viewed as something in the past and the government can’t act like the problem is solved with an apology.The Sixties Scoop should not be viewed as a partisan issue. It was sanctioned by all Saskatchewan governments from the 1960s to the present — both the NDP and the right-wing government of the day, be it Liberal, Conservative or Sask. Party. There is no moral high ground here and all parties must admit that their previous government allowed social workers to run amok and seize Indigenous children in a manner that would never be allowed for any other group in society.Today there are more Indigenous children in care than were in boarding schools at the height of that travesty.The Saskatchewan government must relinquish its assumed jurisdiction over First Nations child welfare and admit that First Nations institutions are better equipped to handle the welfare of our children.The tribal councils and some First Nations have their own child and family services institutions and they need the jurisdiction and financial support to do their job. The First Nations approach is to strengthen families, not tear them apart leaving the social wreckage that the provincial system has created.The result of the provincial involvement has had mixed results. Some children were adopted into loving families and, while they lost their language and culture, they still were able to succeed in life.In other cases, the children were physically and sexually abused and lives were ruined.I have interviewed many survivors over the years because this experience has affected so many of our people. One young woman told me that she was sexually abused by her adopted father from an early age. She was isolated and lived in fear and self-loathing.Today she lives by herself and she sees her life as ruined.A man told me that he and his brother were adopted by a farm family and used as slave labour. They did chores every day and during the summer they worked every day hauling bales, weeding the garden and caring for livestock.For their trouble they had to live in the basement and were not allowed upstairs.I’m glad that the provincial government is issuing an apology but simply saying they’re sorry isn’t enough. The province has a huge mess to clean up and it’s time to recognize First Nations jurisdiction for our child and family services.
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