Justice for Children taken in the Sixties Scoop

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Some great news that was published in the paper today is that a lawsuit has been filed by Sixties Scoop survivors, against the government that took them from their parents: Lawsuit filed for ‘Sixties Scoop’ kids”

Related to this, I wanted to share this with you a new article from Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sixties_Scoop.

“Sixties Scoop”

The term Sixties Scoop was coined by Patrick Johnston in his 1983 report Native Children and the Child Welfare System.[1][2] It refers to the Canadian practice, beginning in the 1960s and continuing until the late 1980s, of apprehending unusually high numbers of children of Aboriginal peoples in Canada and fostering or adopting them out, usually into white families.[3].

Reder (2007) reports that the adult adoptees who were the subjects of this program have eloquently spoken out about their losses: loss of their cultural identity, lost contact with their natural families, barred access from medical histories, and for status Indian children the loss of their status [4]

An estimated 20,000 aboriginal children were taken from their families and fostered or adopted out to primary white middle-class families [5],[6]

This government policy was discontinued in the mid-’80s, after Ontario chiefs passed resolutions against it and a Manitoba judicial inquiry harshly condemned it. [7] This judicial inquiry was headed by Justice Edwin Kimelman, who published the File Review Report. Report of the Review Committee on Indian and Métis Adoptions and Placements [8] (also known as the Kimelman Report).

Two lawsuits have been filed in Canada by survivors of the Sixties Scoop, one in Ontario in 2010 [9][10] and one in British Columbia in 2011.[11]

Use of the Term

The term “Sixties Scoop” has wide usage in Canadian media:

“A new report shines a light on the “sixties scoop,” where unusually high numbers of native children were put into foster care or adopted, usually by white families. [12] (CBC Radio Archives, 1993)

“Lawsuit filed for ‘Sixties Scoop’ kids,” (The Victoria Times Colonist, June 1, 2011) [13]

“The ‘Sixties Scoop’ is a term that refers to the phenomenon, beginning in the 1960s and carrying on until the 1980s, of unusually high numbers of children apprehended from their native families and fostered or adopted out, usually into white families…” (Reder, 2007) [14]

“Commonly referred to as the Sixties Scoop, the practice of removing large numbers of aboriginal children from their families and giving them over to white middle-class parents was discontinued in the mid-’80s..” (Eye Weekly, Toronto Star Newspapers Ltd.). [15]

“B.C. natives sue federal government for millions over ‘Sixties’ Scoop’.” (The Vancouver Sun, May 31, 2011)[16]

Similar social developments in other countries

An event similar to the Sixties Scoop happened in Australia where Aboriginal children, sometimes referred to as the Stolen Generation, were removed from their families and placed into internment camps, orphanages and other institutions. A similar term, Baby Scoop Era refers to the period in United States history starting after the end of World War II and ending in 1972,[17] characterized by an increased rate of pre-marital pregnancies over the preceding period, along with a higher rate of forced adoption[18].


  1. ^ Johnston, Patrick (1983). Native Children and the Child Welfare System. Publisher: Canadian Council on Social Development. Ottawa, Ontario
  2. ^ CBC Radio (March 12, 1983) “Stolen generations” Program: Our Native Land. Broadcast Date: March 12, 1983. http://archives.cbc.ca/programs/535-16036/page/1/
  3. ^ Lyons, T. (2000). “Stolen Nation,” in Eye Weekly, January 13, 2000. Toronto Star Newspapers Limited.
  4. ^ Reder, Deanna. (2007). Indian re ACT(ions). For Every ACTion – There’s a Reaction. First Nations Studies Learning Object Model. University of British Columbia
  5. ^ Philp, Margaret (2002). “The Land of Lost Children”, The Globe and Mail, Saturday, December 21, 2002, http://www.fact.on.ca/news/news0212/gm021221a.htm
  6. ^ Crey, Ernie, & Fournier, Suzanne (1998). Stolen From Our Embrace. The Abduction of First Nations Children and the Restoration of Aboriginal Communities. D&M Publishers Inc. ISBN 978-1-55054-661-3 Winner of the BC Book Prize Hubert-Evans Prize for Non-Fiction
  7. ^ Lyons, T. (2000). “Stolen Nation,” in Eye Weekly, January 13, 2000. Toronto Star Newspapers Limited. http://www.cuckoografik.org/trained_tales/orp_pages/news/news5.html
  8. ^ Kimelman, Edwin (1984). File Review Report. Report of the Review Committee on Indian and Métis Adoptions and Placements. Winnipeg: Manitoba Community Services.
  9. ^ Chiefs of Ontario – UPDATE Preparation for Special Chiefs Assembly. 60s Scoop Litigation. Downloaded from http://www.nanlegal.on.ca/upload/documents/coo-60s-scoop-litigation-update-final.pdf
  10. ^ “Former CAS wards seek billions in lawsuit” Wawatay News, July 22, 2010, Volume 37, No. 15. http://www.wawataynews.ca/node/20094
  11. ^ Fournier, Suzanne (2011). “B.C. natives sue federal government for millions over ‘Sixties’ Scoop’.” The Vancouver Sun, May 31, 2011. Postmedia News.
  12. ^ CBC Radio Archives (Print Edition, March 16, 2011). “Stolen Generations” http://archives.cbc.ca/version_print.asp?page=1&IDLan=1&IDClip=16036
  13. ^ “Lawsuit filed for ‘Sixties Scoop’ kids,” The Victoria Times-Colonist, Wednesday, June 1, 2011, http://www.timescolonist.com/life/Lawsuit+filed+Sixties+Scoop+kids/4872693/story.html Accessed 1 June 2011.
  14. ^ Reder, Deanna. (2007). Indian reACT(ions). For Every ACTion – There’s a Reaction. First Nations Studies Learning Object Model. University of British Columbia
  15. ^ Lyons, T. (2000). “Stolen Nation,” in Eye Weekly, January 13, 2000. Toronto Star Newspapers Limited.
  16. ^ The Vancouver Sun, May 31, 2011. Postmedia News.
  17. ^ The Baby Scoop Era Research Initiative
  18. ^ Fessler, A. (2006). The Girls Who Went Away; The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade. New York: Penguin Press. ISBN 1-59420-094-7

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The Power of Words … and an Adoptee Rights Petition

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Sometimes my blog posts are inspired by conversations which occur on message boards, and this is one of them.  So, it is very possible that you have read the original conversation where this took place, and if so, then I apologize for the repetition.

This came from an online conversation about a recent “birthmother petition,” where an organization is requesting the signatures of natural mothers to support adoptee-rights.  Now, I believe wholeheartedly in open records, and that EVERYONE has the right to their original birth records, their family history, and the right to make contact with their lost family members if they choose (this means both ways!) … BUT, I also do not believe that it is the right thing to do to objectify a group of people in order to further the rights of a separate group, at the expense of the first.

So, in this conversation about this petition, several natural mothers such as myself stated that we would not be signing it.  Not that we do not support adoptee rights (we wholeheartedly DO! and the women discussing this have spent years of their lives actively working for open records), but because: (1)  being mothers still, we are not “birthmothers;” (2) we find it offensive, dehumanizing, and objectifying to be defined and labelled as “incubators;” and (3) we feel that the organization which sponsored this petition could just as easily have used the term which respects us:  “natural mother.” Even if it used both terms, that at least would show respect for all of us, those natural mothers who respect themselves as being mothers, and those who accept the adoption industry’s statement that we are no longer mothers.

So, this is my response to the person who defended the use of the term “birth mother” in the petition.   I sincerely respect her an an open records advocate, but I do feel that even if she does not feel that her own natural mother is a mother to her, that is her personal choice in her life, but it does not mean that this can be generalized to cover other mothers-of-adoption-loss without our consent.  And I do not give consent to be dehumanized.

” I am sorry to hear, xxxxxx, that your natural mother is nothing more than an incubator to you (yes, this is what she is reduced to if your adoptive mother is awarded the status of being your sole mother, it means that her only relevance/action as a mother in you life was to gestate and push you out), but the word dehumanizes and objectifies women as being nothing more than convenient uteri. Legislators also recognize and understand the term natural mother. They have for ages, as much currently-in-effect state and provincial legislation still uses that term.

”  I disagree with you that it is necessary to use this term with politicians. I have been involved in open records campaigns in 3 provinces, actively writing to politicians, creating websites that promote open records, and sending out bulletins to members of nonprofit organizations I belonged to in order to publicize open records campaigns and get members in involved in open records. I have never yet had to use the term ‘birthmother’ in any of these actions.

”  People have the right to not be objectified. The ‘birth terms’ objectify women. They were invented and defined by the adoption industry, which treated and treats us as livestock anyway:

‘… the tendency growing out of the demand for babies is to regard unmarried mothers as breeding machines…(by people intent) upon securing babies for quick adoptions.’ – Leontine Young, ‘Is Money Our Trouble?’ (paper presented at the Nationa…l Conference of Social Workers, Cleveland, 1953)

”  And, if one reduces a human being to an object, one can then treat them as voiceless, with rights, in need of protecting. The term ‘birthmother’ actually plays into supporting closed records legislation by defining us as having NO continuing love or connection with our lost child, and thus no interest in ‘reunion’ or being ‘found.’ And reunion IS the elephant on the dining room table when it comes to ‘adoptee rights’ and ‘open records.’

”  I have the right not to be defined as an non-mother, an incubator, etc. So do all other MOTHERS who have lost children to adoption. Thus the term natural mother, which recognizes and respects our continuing motherhood, is the one which is not derogatory or denigrating to us. Or you can call us mothers, or mothers of adoption loss. Or mothers separated from a child by adoption.

”  What is a natural mother? I am a mother by the laws of nature. The adoptive mother is the mother who was created by the laws of modern human society, pursuant to laws which began with the first child adoption law, invented in 1851 in Massachusetts. So, natural and socially-created. But the continuing love and blood-bond I have with my child, our sharing of genes, that I created him through the processes of Nature, all count towards me being a mother. (He also calls me Mom and I have adopted him back, but these are moot points). If laws and social-worker-procedures and the adoption industry had not been created to rip us apart, we would still have been together. My love for him never died, my connection with him that is just as strong as my connection and love for my other children. This is NOT saying that adoptive parents are unnatural. It is not a game of ‘Opposites,’ because if you say that this makes adoptive parents ‘unnatural’ then in the ‘Opposites Game’ the term ‘birthmother’ makes them into ‘deathmothers.’

Sometimes I feel that i beat this topic to death, and you, dear readers, are likely sick of hearing it. But why ask for my support in a way that treats me as less-than-human, that assumes that I do not have or want a family relationship with my son?   The issue this time is that we, as natural mothers, are being asked to further the interests of another group while ignoring our own interests (e.g. open records for natural parents as well), but we’re being asked as “incubators” do to so.

Meanwhile, please sign this petition, which has been active and on in the internet since 2000:

Mothers for Open Records Everywhere

More Old Rich White Men

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In Canada, our situation is so very sad.  We are in the middle of an election, and if you look at the party leaders, the selection is pitiful.   No women, no persons of colour, no-one under the age of “Seniors Day at Zellers.”  In essence, no-one to represent the interests of women, the young, or the disenfranchised.

I feel like we’re in a time-warp.  Nothing has changed.  Like I stated in 2008, all we can choose from are  Old Rich White Men.

So the sorry fact is that, even if your party’s platform pretends to pay attention to you, you can be certain that the corporate culture in Ottawa will not even know you exist.  Even the women who are elected to Parliament end up finding out that they have to obey the rules of the “Old Rich White Boys’ Club.”

“Ottawa is old, white and male” — John Ibbitson, in “Five reasons Ottawa is turning you off” (Globe and Mail)

And, I know my readers will remind me about the Green Party leader, Elizabeth May.   But what does it say about Canada that the only female leader is heading up a party that stands no chance of being elected under our current “First Past the Post” system?

No wonder there is no support for young, single, poor mothers to keep their children.  The life experiences of the people whom our political parties nominate for leadership do not reflect their experiences, values, beliefs, or struggles.

I can give you a clear picture of this:   A young First Nations woman I know well, struggling to raise three children on welfare, has bills this April of $740 not including groceries.  Her total income is $600. She is already in subsidized housing.  Child support?  What’s that?  She has to call the father of her children every month to try to hound him to pay up.  If she makes even a little bit of money, the welfare office takes it away.  The stress of trying to figure out how to afford to feed her children, how to pay her bills, and how to get herself out of the crushing student debt she is in (the college she had enrolled in went bankrupt so she ended up with a staggering debt and no diploma.   She is overwhelmed with “How do I get the money to feed my children?” and this constant stress is on her mind even when her daughter is demanding attention — how can you focus on two critical things at once?  Her stress is harming her health and she already has chronic neck pain.  Working?  How do you afford daycare for three children?  She already has lost children to adoption due to poverty alone.  Canada is still forcing women to surrender their babies and children due to poverty.   Is this not systemic financial coercion?

But is there anyone who cares?   Obviously not.   And nothing will change as long as our only choices for political leadership are old rich White men.

Musings About the Term “First Mother”

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Regarding the term “first mother”:  I have seen it used increasingly over the past 10 years or so, and as a former linguistics major, I am fascinated with the etymology and semantics of words.  I do not automatically use the term “first mother” myself, but I do belong to a group called the First Mothers Action Group, which is celebrating its 10th birthday as of today.

I admit, I sit on the fence regarding the term “first mother.”  I am not certain whether I like it or not, or whether I feel it is insulting or not insulting.  It is ambiguous, and a little informal poll that I took reflected this ambiguity.

It was only 11 years ago that I first went online to look specifically at adoption-related topics, as opposed to the other online research, website design, and information exchange I had previously engaged in.   What plunged me into “internet adopto-land” was the new reunion with my eldest son.   At first,  I thought that the semantics of the term “first mother”  were that it without ambiguity meant someone who was still a mother, because it has never occurred to me that there was anyone who would ever define me as not being a mother!  Of course I was still one of his mothers, I thought to myself!  That was my reality.

Then I learned about the official definitions of adoption-related words as part of the adoption industry’s “Positive Adoption Language” (or “Respectful Adoption Language”) terminology set.  This is the terminology set which defines the woman who adopts as being the ONLY mother, the sole mother, and hence the woman who has surrendered (PAL term = “birth mother”) is not a mother at all, but only breeding stock:

“Those who raise and nurture a child are his parents: his mother, father ….” (Johnston, 2004)

In her 1979 article that laid out the basis of “Positive Adoption Language,” Marietta Spencer wrote  “Choosing emotionally-correct words is especially important in adoption transactions.”   She follows this with many examples in the article reinforcing the notion of the sole parenthood of adoptive parents after the adoption of a child, implying that no emotional or familial connection remains between members of the pre-existing family.

PAL/RAL thus reduces us to being only important for the biological/uterine purpose of having given birth, and that we are nothing to our children past this point as we are now former mothers and fathers.  And PAL/RAL also officially defines the term “first mother” as only appropriate for women who have lost older children to the child protection system:

“‘First mother (or father):’ This term is accurate only if the birth-giving mother or biological father did some parenting during the postnatal period.  If they never functioned as parents, their contribution was limited to the pre-natal and birth-giving process.  Only in the case of an older child who experienced some parenting from his birth parents is it correct to speak of a ‘first mother’ or “‘first father.'” (Spencer, 1979, p. 456)

Then came a discussion with an adoptive father who was adamant that the term “first mother” was paralleled by “first wife/second wife,” with an adoption being akin to a divorce.  That it indicates sequential motherhood, and being a “first wife” means you are no longer the man’s wife. This made sense to me, that this definition would be the one that many people assumed at face value.  But I wanted to find out how prevalent this meaning was.

So, out of curiosity, to find out the range of opinions, two years ago I asked a question on the Yahoo Answers “Adoption” board  to find out what people thought.  Interesting selection of answers, indicating that some people considered it to sequential, and some, concurrent.  Results seemed to be split about 50-50.

This last month, I took it one step further and wondered “what is the general breakdown of what the general population considers ‘first mother’ to mean?”   I posted a very unscientific poll in a Cafemom forum (“Newcomers Club”) where I took a guess that there might be a relatively proportional representation of the general population regarding how adoption may or may not have affected their lives.  I did not want answers solely from those directly affected (adoptees, natural mothers, “baby brokers,” or people who had adopted or were intending to adopt).  But I did want to get opinions from mothers or those interested in the topic of motherhood.

This was my question:

The term “first mother” has entered adoption-related discourse, and I am sitting on the fence on this one, because I am not certain about what it implies to the “general public.”The term “birth mother” was coined about 40 yrs ago by the adoption industry in order to define a mother who has lost/placed/surrendered a child to adoption as being a non-mother, a mother whose motherhood ended at birth.  The term “natural mother” means a woman who has surrendered a child to adoption but is still a mother, a mother by the laws of Nature and still having that instinctive love/bond with her child.   But what about the term “first mother”?  What does it imply to you?1 – Does it imply concurrent motherhood, like in “first child and second child,” that both the “first mother” and the adoptive mothers are both mothers at the same time to the child? 2 – Or does it imply sequential motherhood, as in “first wife and second wife,” that the first mother of the child is no longer that child’s mother?Whether or not you think one way or the other, please answer this poll, focusing on just what the term “first mother” means to you.

There have been 123 responses (updated on May 16, 2012), and here are the results:

Concurrent. The term “first mother” implies that the woman is STILL a mother of the child who was adopted 33%
Sequential. The term “first mother” implies that the woman is NOT a mother of the child who was adopted 36%
I am not sure. 30%

Looking at the results over the first 13 days in which they gradually came in, there was little variance, only about 5% trending one way or the other.   The comments are also interesting to read.

So, as you can see, the results are pretty divided as to the semantics of the word, but more people consider it to mean “former mother” than “currently a mother to her lost child.”   Of course, this survey is really just an unimportant bit of fluff, and I don’t think it really has much practical purpose in “the real world.”  It was only done out of curiosity.

But, what do you think?  Personally, this to me gives me reason to continue to describe myself using the term “natural mother.”    There is no official legal body of course dictating how words are defined, and even if a person begins using the term “natural mother,” it does not mean that they really do consider us to be mothers.  But to me, at least, there is no ambiguity in this term.

I am a mother to my lost son, and I have not ceased being his mother.   I was not replaced.   I did not stop loving him and we did not stop being related to each other as family. And, maybe I am wrong, but I want my motherhood to be recognized in any terms that are applied to me.   I find it insulting to be relegated to the status of being nothing more than a “breeder.”   I am still of two minds about the term “first mother.”   Overall, I think I find it a bit less offensive than the term “birth mother”  — someone using it might be making an effort to respect me as being a mother — but then again, they might not.   I prefer clarity to ambiguity,  so “natural mother” is my preference.


Johnston, P. I. (2004).  “Speaking Positively: Using Respectful Adoption Language.”  Indianapolis, IN:  Perspectives Press.

Spencer, Marietta (1979). “The Terminology of Adoption,” in Child Welfare, 58(7), pp. 451-459.

A Tool for Adoption Activism: Model Open Records Legislation

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This page contains an example of open records legislation that can be used by open records action groups to propose legislative change. It is non-discriminatory in that it open records to both adoptees and natural parents, and also recognizes that family includes siblings and grandparents who may also wish to search.  It recognizes that — yes, adoptees have rights to know their original identities — but also that recognizes people do request records, at least here in Canada, because it is the only way to be able to find your lost family member unless they have registered with a search registry.  Search and reunion is recognized in these type of open records campaigns, frankly addressed, and hence anti-open-records lobbyists cannot bring up the topic of reunion as a “cheap shot,” using it as scare-mongering.

Both Canadian and U.S. adoption laws are handled on the provincial/state level, and all of these laws are based on the same original law (Massachusetts 1951), legal principles, and social pressures (e.g. records closing to “protect” adoptive families from the natural parents).   In Canada, each piece of existing provincial law has a name and collectively they are usually referred to as the acts and regulations, the laws and regulations, or the statutes of each province (with the exception of the  Quebec civil code).   In the U.S., the compiled laws are known as state codes and each code has a title, chapter, and section.  As examples, here are links to see  Ontario statutes and regulations and the California State Code.

To see the laws or your state or province, google “state code” or “provincial law” for your jurisdiction.

This model legislation provided below is based on B.C.’s current open records legislation (Sections 63 to 67 of British Columbia’s Adoption Act), but eliminating the appalling disclosure and contact veto provisions and instead including a contact preference provision from Alberta’s Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act.

British Columbia was the first province in Canada to open its records, which it did in 1995 with the  Adoption Act (Bill 51).  Alberta obtained open records in 2003 via Section 74 of the  Child Welfare Amendment Act (Bill 9) , which modified the old Child Welfare Act.

This model legislation, below, is also the type of legislation that does not change existing flawed legislation by “nickel-and-diming” it to death.  Instead, it is meant to be passed as a bill to replace old legislation (as was done in B.C.) and any bill would begin with a clause to repeal the old legislation.   Sometimes you need a fresh start.   

In the following example, replace the phrase “Director of Vital Statistics” with the name of the office or official in your state or province who takes care of maintaining all state/provincial birth, death, marriage, and adoption registrations.  Replace the phrase “Vital Statistics Act” with the name of the statute, legislation, code, etc. which authorizes your state or provincial government to collect and maintain this information. 

Sample Open Records Legislation:

Section 1 – Disclosure to adopted person 18 or over:

(1) An adopted person 18 years of age or over may apply to the [Director of Vital Statistics] for copies of the following:

(a)  the original birth registration,
(b) the amended birth registration that was substituted for the adopted person’s original birth registration, and
(c) the adoption order.

(2) When an applicant complies with Section 3, the [Director of Vital Statistics] must give the applicant a copy of the requested records.

Section 2 – Disclosure to natural parent or natural family member when adopted person is 18 or over

(1) If an adopted person is 18 years of age or over, a natural parent named on the adopted person’s original birth registration may apply to the [Director of Vital Statistics] for a copy of one or more of the following:

(a)  the original birth registration,
(b) the amended birth registration that was substituted for the adopted person’s original birth registration, and
(c) the adoption order.

(2) When an applicant complies with Section 3, the [Director of Vital Statistics] must give the applicant a copy of the requested records

(3) Before giving the applicant a copy of the requested record, the [Director of Vital Statistics] must delete the adoptive parents’ identifying information.

(4) Other natural family members (grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, etc.) may also apply upon presentation of the death certificate of the natural parent

Section 3 – Applicant must comply with [Vital Statistics Act]

A person who applies to the [Director of Vital Statistics] under this Part must:

(a) supply any proof of identity required by that director, and
(b) if the application is for a copy of a record, pay the required fee.

Section 4 – Contact Preference

(1) An adopted person, a natural parent or any other person whose personal information may be in orders, certificates or documents may register a contact preference with the [Director of Vital Statistics] that indicates the person’s preferences concerning contact with a person who makes a request under Sections 1 or 2.

(2) The [Director of Vital Statistics] shall advise a person making a request under Sections 1 or 2 of any contact preference registered with respect to the requested information.

Recent Related Blog posts from Other Natural Mothers:

“Unsealed with a K.I.S.S.”

“Hey Wait a Minute…”

“What Does Adoption Reform Activism Look Like?”

Merry Christmas! :)

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To all my Christian friends! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


Have a great holiday season!

Merry Yule!

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Merry Yule to all my Pagan friends! May the blessings of the Goddess Mother and the Sun Child shine upon you!

Merry Yule!

And, a link to my favourite Pagan carol:   Solstice Bells by Jethro Tull