On May 28, Premier Rachel Notley apologized to survivors of the “Sixties Scoop” for the role the province of Alberta played in taking First Nations children from their families and isolating them from their communities and culture by placing them in non-native households.
Over a thirty-year period beginning in 1950s, approximately 20,000 Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their homes and relocated to non-native families.
This Sixties Scoop was a program conceived to deliberately deprive First Nations children of their heritage and language and most importantly, alienate them from their birth parents and their families.
Because this government program was at its most active in the 1960s it was dubbed “The Sixties Scoop.”
Similar to the residential schools system, the Sixties Scoop has been harrowing for both children and their parents and has left survivors with lasting emotional trauma.
Because we live in a time when people take offense so easily and contrite public expressions of regret are so common they often seem insincere and rote, it is easy to be cynical about government leaders issuing public apologies.
This is especially true when governments apologize for transgressions that happened so long ago that an apology for having failed to apologize until now would also appear necessary.
To think that over a half century has passed since this devastating, menacing practice of abducting Aboriginal children from their homes was first implemented, it is baffling that redress has been so slow in coming.
Considering our increased awareness of social issues and injustices and the many reforms implemented over the past fifty years, why, when it comes to Aboriginal Canadians, first with residential school survivors and now the survivors of the Sixties Scoop that an official admission of wrongdoing and an apology has taken so long.
However, only those who have not suffered under these draconian and evil systems can afford to be cynical about the importance of a formal public apology.
Admitting one did wrong and expressing sincere regret for that transgression is the first step in making amends and establishing reconciliation.
The admission of culpability and acknowledging the enormous pain and lastingl damage caused by one’s actions moves the matter from the darkness into the light, which for the victims is the first step towards receiving some kind of justice.
In the legislature on May 28, addressing the survivors of the Sixties Scoop, Notley said:
“We are sorry. For the loss of families, stability, of love, we are sorry. For the loss of identity, language and culture, we are sorry.
“For the loneliness, the anger, the confusion and the frustration, we are sorry.
“For the government practice that left you, Indigenous people, estranged from your families and your communities and your history, we are sorry. For this trauma, this pain, this suffering, alienation and sadness, we are sorry. To all of you, I am sorry.”
She also addd that the Sixties Scoop was a conscious attack on Indigenous identity.
I trust that Rachel Notley’s apology on behalf of the Government of Alberta and all Albertans was sincere.
For Notley to itemize the nature of survivors’ pain: the loneliness, anger, frustration, confusion, alienation, sadness, and to follow each litany of suffering with the reiteration “we are sorry,” showed empathy and expressed acknowledgment of the damage inflicted.
Hopefully it also provided some measure of solace to the Sixties Scoop survivors.