Moe has chance to make amends, set new tone
There aren’t many occasions when politicians get to right past wrongs ... and maybe even avoid future ones.Premier Scott Moe’s apology Monday to Sixties Scoop children is one of those rare opportunities to not only fix past mistakes, but also say something profound about Saskatchewan’s ongoing struggles with First Nations/ Metis relations.Surely the province needs this right now.Moe’s government has so far said nothing about what it intends to say on Monday, which is actually a good thing. Nothing drains the sincerity out of an apology more than the perception that the government is making it a political event.But an even bigger danger would be for Moe not to see the apology as the opportunity it is.First and foremost, Moe needs to look the Sixties Scoop children in the face and unequivocally say that what was done was wrong. They need to hear it. We all need to hear it.While this issue goes back a half-century, Saskatchewan was clearly one of the worst offenders.Other provinces permitted adopting of children from First Nations and Metis families, but Saskatchewan Social Services under the Liberal Ross Thatcher government in 1967 implemented its aggressive Adopt Indian Metis (AIM) program, which removed babies from their mothers (sometimes, as newborns) to be raised by non-metis or non-first Nations families miles, provinces and sometimes continents away.As per the requests of groups like the Sixties Scoop Indigenous Society of Saskatchewan, Moe needs to acknowledge what happened was wrong and commit to continuing dialogue for better understanding.While an apology is important to the aggrieved still in need of healing, it may be more important to those of us who weren’t aggrieved.Moe’s apology also needs to speak to others in the province who either: (a) don’t know or understand the concerns and historical grievances, and; (b) generally don’t want to think about or try to understand how all such issues may play into modern-day social problems.Contrary to the notion that these problems are exclusive to right-wing thinkers, the Sixties Scoop demonstrates how misunderstanding and wrong-headed thinking cuts across philosophical lines.AIM started under a Liberal government and was carried on under the Allan Blakeney NDP government of the 1970s, enjoying substantial support from the left of the day who were more willing to endure the still-somewhat-societally-unacceptable notion of the day of adopting a child of another race.But whether right, left or centre, it serves no purpose for anyone to justify what happened because intentions were well meaning or because some Sixties Scoop children are well-adjusted. Research, documentaries and documented testimonials before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission clearly demonstrate why this was a failed policy.Moe is well-positioned to not only say something profound about our past mistakes, but also how we might avoid repeating those mistakes into the future. It won’t be an easy thing for the Saskatchewan premier to do.Moe has sometimes struggled with his role in this regard, and perhaps his views on these issues. There have been occasions when he’s risen to challenge, like he did a year ago when he met with Colten Boushie’s family after the Gerald Stanley verdict.But given what we now know after the Foi-released information on the teepee camp, the kindest thing one can say is that Moe and his Sask. Party government have not been interested or attuned to First Nations grievances. (Less kind would be to observe that Moe’s government has been deliberately divisive and political, as per the letter from First Nations and Metis Relations Minister Warren Kaeding to rural newspapers complaining about the Wascana Park “illegal” campers.)Monday is a chance forMoe not just to make amends to Sixties Scoop survivors, but to also set a new tone for dialogue with the rest of the province.The premier needs to rise to the occasion.
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