The editors of ActiveHistory.ca are currently enjoying our annual end of summer hiatus, but we’ll be back with new content in September. During the hiatus, we’re featuring some of our most popular and favourite posts from the past year. Thanks as always to our writers and readers.
The following post was originally featured on October 19, 2017
In 1962, at seven months of age, Robert Doucette, the former President of the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan, was removed from his home in the northern Saskatchewan community of Buffalo Narrows. He explained: “it was the priest that took me, the priest told social services my mother wasn’t fit, she was too young. She was 16 or 17, and they came and they took me, for no good reason. Because you know all about extended families in aboriginal communities, it’s not just one person.” Doucette learned later that his mushum (grandfather) swore at the social workers who removed him and threw rocks at the car. For the rest of his life, his mushum asked his daughters to find Robert, “his little man.” Doucette exclaimed: “When my grandfather came asking for me, why didn’t they tell him where I was? What were they afraid of for God’s sake? My cousin was living next door to me on 3rd St in East Flat (Prince Albert), the next house! Why? Why? Why is there such resistance to having those kinship ties?”
Recently, the Sixties Scoop has been in the news. On October 6, 2017 Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Carolyn Bennett and Chief Marcia Brown Martel announced that an agreement-in-principle had been reached to settle the claims of Indigenous children removed from their families during the 1960s and 1970s. Status Indian and Inuit children from across Canada removed between the years 1951-1991 were eligible for compensation from the federal government for the loss of their culture during the time they spent in non-Indigenous foster and adoptive homes. One striking aspect of the agreement was the lack of recognition of Métis children who similarly experienced a loss of culture, family connection and sense of belonging. Ottawa asserts that during this period, it was the provinces that were responsible for the Métis, not the federal government.
The removal and subsequent adoption or fostering of Indigenous children in non-Indigenous homes was a result of increasing child welfare intervention into First Nations, Métis, Inuit families and communities. The “overrepresentation” of Indigenous children among those removed from their families reflected a complex mixture of historical factors: paternalistic professionalism of social welfare experts, provincial child welfare legislation that unfairly targeted Indigenous families, jurisdictional disputes between federal and provincial governments, gendered discrimination in the Indian Act, poverty and discrimination, the impact of residential schools, and Indigenous dispossession.
In 1969 Indian and Métis people made up 7.5 percent of the population of Saskatchewan, however 41.9 percent of all children in foster homes were Indian or Métis.