Canada

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].

References

  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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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.

The residential schools tragedy … there are just no words for it.

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(Note:  This post is not directly adoption related, but pertains to another issue close to my heart, the mistreatment of First Nations peoples in Canada)

The first “national event” of the “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” regarding the First Nations residential schools tragedy is taking  place this week, with 4 days of hearings in Winnipeg.

There are no words to describe the magnitude of the horrors that occurred during the 150 years of the residential school system  (they were instituted in the 1840s, started winding down in the 1950s, and the last one only closed in 1996).

Some people who went to them talk about having “positive experiences,”  but the horror stories of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse that took place in these “prisons for children” are overwhelming in number.   Not only were children forceably taken from their families and forbidden to speak their native languages, but it was all part of a “cultural genocide” which had the purpose of trying to “eliminate Canada’s Indian problem.”

I want to get rid of the Indian problem. Our object is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed. They are a weird and waning race…ready to break out at any moment in savage dances; in wild and desperate orgies.” – Duncan Campbell Scott, Head of Indian Affairs, Canadian Government, 1920.

The researcher, activist and former minister Kevin Annett is a controversial figure, but no matter how you feel about him, I very much recommend his documentary “”UNREPENTANT: Kevin Annett and Canada’s Genocide” (January 2007). ”  on his site “Hidden From History: The Canadian Genocide — Telling the Untold Story of the Genocide of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada

It went beyond abuse — to murder and the withholding of proper medical care.  At a time when tuberculosis was being successfully treated, some of these schools had a huge mortality rate.   John Milroy, author of A National Crime: The Canadian Government and the Residential School System, has data indicating that at it’s peak, from 24% to 42% of the children in some residential schools died of it.    This is quote from a small article in New Scientist (reprinted here)

” In 1907 Peter Bryce, a chief medical officer for the federal Department of Indian Affairs, recorded that 24 per cent of pupils at 15 schools had died of TB over 14 years. At one school, 63 per cent of the children died… Other documents show that officials knew death rates were high until the 1940s, Annett told New Scientist. They record children being admitted with active, contagious TB, with no quarantine or even ventilation in their rooms, the only ways to control TB before antibiotics. Former students say they slept in crowded dormitories with sick children, and were often hungry: hunger lowers immunity and exacerbates the spread of TB.”

But did news articles about a possible 28 mass graves found at residential schools ever made it into your local newspaper?  (The list of locations, as compiled by the Friends and Relatives of the Disappeared Children is available here).  (Annett writes about it here).

But, just like with adoption, a child and a parent were separated, often against their will.  Sometimes parents talk about willingly sending the child to residential school as they thought it would help the child get a good education and good care.  Sometimes former residential school students speak about having had a good residential school experience.  But, just like with adoption, we must listen to the  stories of those who suffered at the hands of people in positions of trust and authority who forcibly separated families against their will, those who were abused, those who suffered trauma for which there may be no recovery.

And, to quote the dedication on the T&RC website,

“For the child taken.  For the parent left behind.”

Endnotes:

1)  Further reading: “‘Aggressive Assimilation’: A history of residential schools in Canada – FAQs on residential schools and compensation,” CBC News, June 14, 2010.

2)  The end of residential schools did not spell the end of the en masse removal of First Nations children from their families.  As they closed, the  “Sixties Scoop” began, lasting well into the 1980s.  For more information, see “Stolen Nation,” “Aboriginal Justice Inquiry – The Sixties Scoop,” “The Sixties Scoop: How Canada’s ‘Best Intentions’ Proved Catastrophic,” Native Children and the Child Welfare System by Patrick Johnston, and Stolen From Our Embrace: The Abduction of First Nations Children and the Restoration of Aboriginal Communities by Ernie Crey and Suzanne Fournier.

Adoption separation: A tragic end for one natural family

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I have a friend, Rowena, who is a natural mother who lost her son to adoption.

Rowena was only 17 when she gave birth to her son Blaise, and in Grace Hospital in Calgary, they only allowed her to see him sparingly for few days after his birth, and then one day the nurses took him away and refused to let her see him ever again. That was the power that hospitals had over us unwed mothers. The professionals around us, often government social workers, we trusted as no-one else showed any care for us. Little did we know of our rights to our babies – the same as the rights of any older or married mother – or that the hospitals’ actions were illegal. Beaten down emotionally and psychologically, and often cast away into exile by our parents and society, we did not know we had any rights at all.

So, in 1967, Rowena’s son was born. And the government social worker that came with the surrender papers made her believe that her only option was to sign, that an unwed mother could not be a mother at all. The growing list of “waiting parents” was more important to the worker than the emotional trauma she was doing by dismembering this one young family. Rowena wanted to keep her baby, and he was taken from her.

Because of the traumatic loss of her son, Rowena never had another child. She yearned for him for what seemed like unending years, thinking of him every single day, and doing what she could to deal with the PTSD and unrelenting grief.

As soon as Alberta set up an adoption reunion registry, Rowena signed up for it. Her name was on that registry for over twenty years as she waited to hopefully find Blaise again. All she had known was that he was supposedly adopted into a “good home” with a stay-at-home mother and a professional father.

Rowena began coming to our monthly Origins Canada support group meetings early this year, and we offered to help her find her son. Thanks to adoption records opening in Alberta (after a hard-fought campaign by people separated by adoption), she was able to apply for and obtain her son’s full adoptive name.

The search began in March 2009, and forty-two years after Rowena lost her son to adoption, he was found again!

The break came when we found Blaise’s adoptive family’s genealogy listed online, including an adoptive sister, “Alice.” We found her in the phonebook, and Rowena phoned her.

Yes, it was the right Alice. Yes, her adoptive brother was Rowena’s son. But, no, Rowena could not contact him as he was a drug-addicted homeless person living on the streets of a city far away. The sister promised to pass on the message to him, if he eventually got a contact number.

Eventually, when Blaise got a temporary cellphone, Rowena and Blaise were finally able to talk on the phone. He told her how his adoptive parents had divorced when he was young, and his adoptive mother was cold and distant. He had little contact with the adoptive father. No, Blaise had not graduated from high school. Yes, he was doing hard drugs, and when Rowena asked what drugs he used, he told her, “Anything I can get my hands on.” Rowena was shocked that her beloved son had been treated this way and was in this state, as she had been forced to surrender him by a system that had told her that these parents were fit and deserved her son more than she did.

Rowena and Blaise talked on the phone three times, when he was able to temporarily get a phone. By the second call, he was calling her “Mom,” and hoping to travel out to the coast to visit her and even live with her. He wanted to start a new life. Rowena offered to send him the bus fare for him to come out.

Rowena sent letters and photographs to Blaise through Alice. Unfortunately, Alice and her family opened up Rowena’s mail to Blaise, which hurt Rowena a lot.

In her third and tragically last phone call with Blaise, Rowena was happy to find that he had finally received the photographs and letters.

In early October, a phone call came from Alice. Blaise was in hospital with a serious heart infection, and Alice said that if Rowena wanted to see Blaise she had better hurry out to Edmonton fast. Alice offered to put up Rowena at her place. Rowena bought the tickets to travel the 1300 km trip and packed her bags, but 20 minutes before she left the house, the phone rang. It was Alice, who told Rowena in an angry voice that she “couldn’t have Rowena staying there” and that she would have to stay elsewhere.

Rowena phoned the hospital to find out how her son was doing. The staff there told her that they were not allowed to release any information, other than to people on the visitors list, and she was not on it. The adoptive father was in charge of the list. Even if Rowena had travelled, she would not have been allowed to see her son.

Last week, the final phone call came. Blaise’s adoptive father told Rowena that her son had passed away. When she asked, he stated firmly that, NO, she was not permitted to come to the funeral, as “They had enough people already.”

Thanks to adoption, Rowena never saw her son nor held him in her arms since his birth 42 years ago. Thanks to adoption, she will never have that chance. The adoptive parents had the right to ensure she would never be able to be there in his final days. Rowena is devastated. The hope of reunion with her son, the hope that sustained her for 42 years, has ended.

I write this post in dedication of the love that Rowena and Blaise had for each other, as mother and son. She never forgot her son. I hope that I am not the only one who sees the tragedy here.

If you are a mother considering the surrender of your newborn infant, please realize that you are losing the right to ever see your beloved child again. Even open adoptions may close at any time (they are not legally enforceable), and not only will you not have the right to see your child, but not even the right to know about his or her welfare. That is a right only the adoptive parents have, and even if your child is an adult — as next-of-kin — they have the right to deny all information or contact to others in case of a medical emergency. Adoption loss is a tragedy in so many ways. Please consider if you can live with this loss as well.

In Memory of Blaise
1967-2009
Loved and missed by your natural mother, Rowena,
even since you were born

This is a true  story about a natural mother and her son, and how forced adoption separation led to a heartbreaking tragedy.  Every time a mother and child are forced apart for adoption purposes, it is a tragedy; but for Rowena, the hope of seeing her son again was forever lost.

See Rowena’s article “Reunion Attempt

February 20, 1980

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… a seventeen year old with no-one to talk to and no-one who would listen to me.

… parents are 62 and 61 years old … small town Prairie mentality and Fundamentalist beliefs.

… internment in a wage home once I began “showing,” hiding my growing belly to protect my parents from the shame of “what would the neighbours and relatives say?”

… being shamed by my parents into wearing my grandma’s wedding ring to hide my shameful “unwed” status from the world.

… a week of false labour.

… my parents dropping me off at the hospital slightly past midnight, and the nurses telling them to leave. Being put on a gurney and given a sleeping pill to sleep, then put into a closet for the night. Lights on. The pain was strong and the sleeping pill did nothing for me. Awake all night. Alone.

… strapped down to a bed with a fetal monitor wrapped around my stomach. Another one screwed into his scalp.

… my mother coming in the afternoon to sit with me, acting ashamed, never showing concern or affection.

… screaming in pain … and being told by nurses to shut up.

… nauseated and disoriented from the straight Demerol injections that did nothing for the pain

… a doctor telling the intern that he had given me too much Demerol.

… 18 hours of labour with no food or water

… wheeled down the hallway

… climbing  onto the narrow delivery table,  as flat as an ironing board, my arms strapped down with leather straps, feet up in stirrups.

… trying to push out a baby  against gravity, not having slept for 36 hours … not having eaten for 24 hours … overwhelming pain.

… episiotomy sliced down with a deep 4-inch-long cut, without anaesthesia … sewn up again without adequate anaesthesia.  Permanent nerve damage.

… sheet put up in front of my face to prevent me from seeing him as he was born and whisked from the room, abducted.

… given a shot and waking up 18 hours later in a ward far far from the maternity ward and nursery, other end of the hospital, different floor.

… a huge huge sense of loss.

… my breasts bound up to prevent lactation.

… unable to walk for 2 days after.

… not allowed to see or hold my baby. Never being told I had the right to. No lawyers to explain to me that i had *any* rights at all. No nurse brought him to me

… finally allowed to look at him for about 5 minutes  in the nursery several days later, watched over by hawk-like nurses to prevent me from picking him up. I was not welcome there.  Seeing him confirmed for me what I already knew: that I loved him beyond all measure. I wanted to keep him.

….  a woman who had surrendered a baby 2 months prior being sent in to convince me to “do the right thing.”

… forbidden by parents from taking my baby home.

… never told about welfare or any other way to keep him.  At age 17 from a small farming town and a sheltered upbringing, I had no idea even what ‘welfare’ was.

… the social wrecker telling  me to sign or he’d be in foster care until I ‘decided’ to. Telling me that the children of unwed mothers grow up to be criminals.  Lying to me that I would “move on.” No informed consent, no other options, no choice.

I wanted to keep my baby. I was capable. I was never given the chance or the choice.

This is adoption. This was coercion.  I was nothing more than a convenient uterus to them, to take away another baby for adoption.This was done to thousands of unwed mothers across Canada for thirty years, until about 1988. There is nothing “voluntary” about “voluntary surrender.” A coerced “decision” is not a decision at all.