Apology should set tone for improved First Nations relations
The Saskatchewan Party government’s recently announced Jan. 7 apology to Sixties Scoop children ends this old year and begins the new one on a positive note.Let us hope for higher notes when it comes to government relations with First Nations and Metis people in 2019. In 2018, we saw far too many lows.This week’s good news announcement has, unfortunately, been far too long in coming... although let us be clear that Premier Scott Moe’s government should not be seen as the source of this particular problem that has been decades in the making.The Sixties Scoop is another problematic chapter in Saskatchewan and Canada’s historically troubled relationship with Indigenous people — one in which decisions were made by well-meaning bureaucrats who clearly didn’t expect or understand the consequences. There is little doubt many Sixties Scoop children endured hell, and less doubt their road to hell was paved with good intentions.The practice of “scooping up” some 20,000 First Nations and Metis children from families and communities across Canada for either adoption or foster care was based on the faulty premise that children who actually had families would automatically be better off if they were adopted by more affluent white families or raised in white, middle-class foster homes.This isn’t to suggest that most of these children weren’t cared for or loved — arguably where the Sixties Scoop stories diverge from the residential school fiasco.But it is to say that there was something very wrong about having targeted government programs and policies like Saskatchewan’s 1967 Adopt Indian Metis (AIM) program that ripped babies (sometimes newborns) from their mothers to be raised miles, provinces and sometimes continents away.The scars that many First Nations and Metis children still bear from these policies that carried on into the 1980s run deep. They include a loss of identity, prejudices faced while growing up and the struggle to develop basic parenting skills — stories that are all too similar to those of residential school students.The term “Sixties Scoop” didn’t even come into existence until the early 1980s, and it would take another quarter century before most started to comprehend what happened and its effect.Moe’s Sask. Party administration’s long-overdue Jan. 7 apology should be seen as an important step in the healing process.No doubt it should have come earlier, delayed by squabbles with the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) over a provincial compensation package that never came. This wasn’t helpful (although it’s questionable whether the FSIN intervention was at all helpful to longer-term goals or whether one can entirely blame the Sask. Party government for this delay).That we again heard the all-too-familiar “it’s just all about the money” narrative we tend to hear from certain sectors of this province any time there is any First Nation grievance is where the Sask. Party government needs to begin its own contribution to the healing process.On Jan. 7, Moe needs to say that First Nations/metis grievances like the ones surrounding the Sixties Scoop are real. And it’s Moe who needs to say this because it very much appears that too many people in Saskatchewan — including some of his own supporters — need to hear this from their premier.Let’s give some credit here for sometimes delivering that important message in 2018. Moe and Justice Minister Don Morgan did exactly the right thing in the wake of Gerald Stanley’s not-guilty verdict by meeting with the family of victim Colten Boushie.But far too often, 2018 was a year of either sending the wrong message (as was the case when the Sask. Party government demanded police end the teepee protest in Wascana Park) or leaving too much of the message to interpretation (as has been the case with First Nation reaction/ lack of input on the new trespassing law and the conservation officer firearms policy).We need to stop doing this.The lesson of the Sixties Scoop is that we need to recognize and stop our mistakes as we are making them.
© PressReader. All rights reserved.