Alberta offers heartfelt apology to Sixties Scoop survivors

Photo by Jason Franson.

(May 28, 2018) – After months of comprehensive consultations, on May 28, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley delivered an apology in the legislature to survivors and families of the Sixties Scoop.

As part of Alberta’s commitment to reconciliation, Alberta officially apologized for past practices that led to the removal of Indigenous children from their families, resulting in a loss of culture, identity and connection to their communities. The impacts are still felt by survivors and their families today.

“It hurts just to imagine the heartbreak experienced by these families, along with the loss of language, culture and sense of belonging. Survivors can never replace what was taken, and I am sorry. We must acknowledge these wrongs and the toll they have taken, and thank survivors for their courage in speaking up,” stated Premier Notley. 

“In the true spirit of reconciliation, this apology from the Premier is an acknowledgement that the Sixties Scoop was a dark chapter in Alberta’s history,” responded Adam North Peigan, president of the Sixties Scoop Indigenous Society of Alberta.

Grand entry into the legislature before Alberta’s historic Sixties Scoop apology. Photo supplied.

“This apology is long overdue and is a greatly needed step in the healing process for our Indigenous communities. This apology means a lot, not only to survivors, but to Albertans in general as well because it’s an opportunity to create public awareness on the history and legacy of the Sixties Scoop.”

The Sixties Scoop refers to government practices across Canada from the 1950s to the 1980s that led to an unknown number of First Nation, Metis and Inuit children taken from parents, families and communities by child intervention services and placed with mostly non-Indigenous families. Many of these children experienced abuse, mistreatment and neglect and lost touch with their families, communities, culture and traditional language.

Between January and March, the Government of Alberta worked with the Sixties Scoop Indigenous Society of Alberta to conduct engagement sessions across Alberta. The sessions provided an opportunity to listen to survivors and empower them in a respectful and inclusive engagement that led to today’s apology.

“Today was a crucial moment in our recent history for our provincial government to acknowledge and apologize for the painful and traumatic events known as the Sixties Scoop,” said Chief Tony Alexis. I know many of our people can start healing and move forward. It’s through these acts of reconciliation, we as a society can build trust and understanding together to become a stronger, safer and more resilient nation.”

Thousands of Indigenous children were taken from their homes in Alberta between 1950 – 1980 and put into care of non-Indigenous families. It was through this process that many families were torn apart without their consent and children endured loss of identity, language, culture and others were abused mentally, physically and emotionally. Children lost their families, parents lost their babies.

“It is yet another time in Canadian history that Indigenous people were disregarded and mistreated. Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation member Orlando Alexis provided feedback and valuable insight to SSISSA on behalf of Alexis members. Due to his and the SSISSA board’s competence and tenacity, this apology has come to light and will serve many Indigenous people in Alberta and across the nation.”

Alberta has previously taken steps to acknowledge past mistreatment of Indigenous people, including a 2015 apology for failing to stop children taken from their homes as part of the federal residential school system.

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