By Shari Narine
with audio from Brittney Pastion of CFWE-FM
Sixties Scoop survivors, their parents and their offspring could be receiving an apology from the Alberta government by the middle of this year.
“I don’t have a firm date with the government of Alberta, but I’m hoping it’s going to happen over the summer. I’m optimistic and I’m hopeful,” said Adam North Peigan, who began pressuring the Rachel Notley NDP government in 2016 to follow in the footsteps of NDP Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger who apologized to Sixties Scoop survivors in June 2015.
In Alberta, there were 20,000 Indigenous children caught up in the Sixties Scoop – a federal program implemented by the provinces between 1960 and the early 1990s which removed Native children from their families and adopted them out.
Now, the province along with the Sixties Scoop Indigenous Society of Alberta will be undertaking engagement sessions to “help shape what a meaningful government apology will look like,” reads a news release issued by ministers Danielle Larivee (Children’s Services) and Richard Feehan (Indigenous Relations).
North Peigan, who heads the Sixties Scoop Society, was tasked by First Nations and Métis government leaders and provincial Indigenous organizations to work with the government to establish a plan of action toward reconciliation with Sixties Scoop survivors, which would lead to an apology from Notley. The board of the society consists entirely of Sixties Scoop survivors.
Work got underway last spring following a collaborative effort between North Peigan and United Conservative Party Indigenous Relations Critic Dave Hanson. Hanson took the question of a provincial apology to the Legislature on March 16, 2017, at which time Notley and Feehan committed to an apology.
On the same day Hanson rose in the Legislature, North Peigan was contacted by Feehan’s office for a meeting. A year earlier, North Peigan had met with the Indigenous Relations minister to talk about reconciliation and an apology, but the meeting resulted in no further action.
North Peigan says he isn’t bitter that it took the Official Opposition to spur on the province.
“The system only reacts when the system is feeling pressured,” he said.
North Peigan is pleased with what has resulted with Sixties scoops survivors having driven the process.
Engagement sessions will be held in Peace River (Jan. 18), St. Paul (Feb. 1), Fort McMurray (Feb. 7), Lethbridge (Feb. 14), Calgary (Feb. 21) and in Edmonton (March 1). They are open to survivors and the public.
The sessions will allow survivors the opportunity to talk about how their lives were impacted, along with the lives of their families and their communities.
“What we don’t want to happen is that the government of Alberta drafts up an apology, go say ‘I’m sorry’ and then check it off on a check box that it’s done. It needs to be meaningful and it needs to come from the survivors. So us going out and doing these engagement sessions, I can’t reiterate even more that it’s giving a voice to the Sixties scoop survivors,” said North Peigan.
The apology will be worded and crafted by the government in collaboration with the board of directors from the Sixties Scoop Society “based on what the survivors tell us out of the engagement sessions,” said North Peigan.
The apology needs to acknowledge the children of Sixties Scoop survivors as well as those families and parents, who had their children taken, he said.
“Like my mother, for example,” said North Peigan. “She tells me what had happened when we were scooped. And it’s really saddening to hear what she says.”
There is no expectation of financial compensation with the apology.
“The work that we’re doing with the Alberta government is strictly on reconciliation and it has absolutely nothing to do with compensation and litigation. That is the responsibility of the federal government,” said North Peigan.
He adds that his organization is monitoring what’s happening federally, but is not actively involved at this point.
- Jan. 18 - Peace River
- Feb. 1 - St. Paul
- Feb. 7 - Fort McMurray
- Feb. 14 - Lethbridge
- Feb. 21 - Calgary
- March 1 - Edmonton
Those who cannot attend in person are welcome to submit input online. For more information, visit http://www.alberta.ca/SixtiesScoopApology