On this National Indigenous Peoples Day take a moment to understand the Sixties Scoop  


Greetings Survivors, Descendants, and extended community members,

A Story Representative of the Sixties Scoop...

arah (*not her real name, this is a fictionalized compilation based on the stories of many survivors) put the pot on to boil for Labrador tea. She lit a braid of sweetgrass and smudged, carefully extinguishing the sacred flame. As she swept the kitchen floor, Sarah began humming softly to herself. She had good plans for a kids' day out tomorrow. The children had all drifted off to sleep in the next room. The baby looked like a little angel in the traditional swing hammock that she had rigged over her bed. Her mother had taught her this way of keeping the smallest child close and safe. It was early evening, and Sarah always took a moment to enjoy this still and peaceful time. There was a sudden pounding at the door. Baby Lawrence began to cry, and she swept him up in her arms as she called out, “Who’s there?”

 “The RCMP. Open up.”  

Heart pounding, she opened the door. Three uniformed police officers were standing there with a severe-looking white woman. The policemen had their hands on their gun holsters. The social worker was brandishing a clipboard. They pushed their way in without asking for permission.  They had come to take all five children. Alexis, age 10; Henry, age eight; Mary, who was nearly six; David, just turned three; and her baby, Lawrence. Sarah was calm at first: “There must be some mistake.” The social worker showed her the papers on the clipboard. "These are for the apprehension. Do you understand?" Sarah asked if she could call someone, and the biggest officer said, "Who you going to call? The police?” The officers laughed. The social worker headed into the bedroom.

Sarah could feel panic, and an overwhelming protective instinct, a need to preserve the safety of her children, surging up inside her. But the power and paperwork and guns also made her feel helpless, and she began to cry, saying “Please, no. Why?” They didn't bother to answer her. Instead, the social worker was pulling the children out of their beds. The officers stopped Sarah at the bedroom door. The kids were all in their pyjamas. David was clutching his teddy and reaching for his mother as the social worker snatched him up. The older children, crying and confused, found themselves being herded out their bedroom and toward the front door.  The last thing the kids saw of their mother was her hopeless and desperate struggle against the tall heavy-set police officer holding their mother back from protecting her children or even being able to hold them one last time as the children were ushered out into the police car.

None of the children had been allowed a good-bye hug. The last thing the kids heard of their mother as they pressed their damp faces against the car windows was the haunting and blood curdling screams of the intolerable pain of losing her children forever while simultaneously begging with the authorities, “NO, PLEASE GOD NO!”

As the officials drove away with the family that was her life, the remaining policeman kept a grip on Sarah's arms that would leave lingering bruises. “I didn’t even get to say goodbye,” Sarah sobbed, as the heavyset officer finally released her arms. He wiped his hands on his flanks and stomped out the door without a word. Sarah followed him to his car, begging him to tell her where they were being taken. She stood in the path of the car so he couldn't drive away. He rolled down the window and said, "It's confidential. It's none of your business. It's out of my hands. Now get out of the way!" He gunned the engine, and Sarah stepped aside.

She would never see any of her children again, in a lifetime shortened by despair and loneliness, guilt and shame, fear and trauma.

Sarah spent years trying to get answers. Social Services officially allowed no contact and no information. Clues occasionally surfaced. Sarah managed to dig up the fact that her oldest daughter had been lost by the system three years in, a runaway never found. Her son, eight years old at the time of his removal, had been tossed from foster home to foster home before being sent to the United States for an adoption. Little Mary had been sent to Europe, and David had been shipped out to New Zealand. Her baby, Lawrence, was still in Canada somewhere, though they would never say where. He doubtless had few memories of his home, or of his extended family on the reserve.  

Sarah, a mother without children, would die early and destitute, in a despair of addiction. She had never touched drugs or even alcohol until her children were taken from her. She received no help. After all, her destruction was part of the plan. You can't allow the real mothers to survive, if your plan is to break up families and break down communities.  

Alexis, David, Henry, Mary, and Lawrence were kept separate all their lives. They suffered nightmares, separation anxiety, PTSD and all the other consequences of collective and individual trauma. Each child struggled to remember their real home life, their real siblings, their real mother’s eyes and face, their true extended family. Vague and fast-fading memories surfaced as each child grew up. These fragments of their Indigenous language, of moments of togetherness were like pieces floating away from an overturned canoe. Growing up, each tried not to drown in a system designed to erase their ties to their family of origin, language, culture and community. Each child struggled for a lifetime not to break down spiritually, emotionally and mentally.

Both mother and children would spend the rest of their lives searching crowds and photographs for familiar faces their entire lives, ask the government for answers they could not get, buried in files locked away.  The ever-present understanding by all children stolen from their families was that they longed for home, for the comfort of their moms and dads and sisters and brothers.  

Every day of their lives they would always feel the emptiness of what once was that special love and belonging.  Every day these stolen children would feel in their soul that where they ended up after removal was not where they belonged.  All these children would struggle their entire lives to get back home and get back to the familiar embrace of their moms and dads and their communities of origin, however they would also deeply despair that reunification would not happen in this lifetime... 

Thank you for reading if you are triggered please seek from the resources here

The Facts Behind the Sixties Scoop

The Sixties Scoop rivals the Indian Residential Schools for darkness. The driving force behind the Scoop remained the "kill the Indian" policy that led to the Residential Schools, with a change in method. Residential Schools functioned as work camps (and sometimes death camps) for groups, while the Sixties Scoop put non-Indigenous Canadian households to work on erasing the identity of Indigenous children.While the Scoop as a method has officially ended, the practice remains. Today's numbers make this fact plainly visible to anyone willing to look.

Today in Canada, Indigenous children are much more likely to be separated from their families than non-Indigenous children, regardless of the socioeconomic status of the Indigenous family.  

The Inuit of Canada were very much a part of the Sixties Scoop. The Inuit are from the Northern communities of Canada and they also succumbed to the era of the Sixties Scoop. There were approximately 800 to 1000 children who were taken from their families forcefully in the 1960’s and placed into non indigenous homes, throughout Canada, the United States. Those who were not adopted out were made child wards of state. Many had their birth names and birth dates changed which made it harder to find out who their parents were and many are still searching.

The Sixties Scoop broke generations of Inuit families that left a legacy of brokenness, addictions and poverty. Many children were abused mentally, physically and sexually that left scars that still remain. Inuit parents lost their children to death, while in the government system which left parents living as empty shells turning to drugs and alcohol. The Sixties Scoop era left many Inuit homeless in Urban streets with no one to turn to because the system of the child welfare state that stole them really didn’t care for their safety, so they ended up running away to live on city streets.

"The Inuit are very resilient people. We come from strong ancestors who have lived and survived through many hardships. It is time to come together now as a country to reconcile the wrongs that have been put upon all Sixties Scoop Survivors. We have survived the brokenness, the losses of our culture and language." ~Selina Legge

The method used in Sixties Scoop was put into place long before the decade after which it now bears its name. But it was only in the 1960s, with government programs such as AIM (Adopt an Indian or Inuit or Métis), that non-Indigenous households became "kill the Indian" factories. Government agencies carrying out AIM placed ads in papers and department stores. These advertisements looked like "adopt-a-pet" biographies. (See real photos below)

They suggested that Canadian settler families could do good by taking on an Indigenous child, to be dealt with as they saw fit.

Throughout that decade, there was enthusiastic response. The program sent thousands of Indigenous children across the country, and even across borders, to other countries where they remain to this day.  The cross-border aspect of the Sixties Scoop program extended this atrocity to international scope.  Indigenous children of all ages, infancy to adolescence, were separated from their siblings, their parents, their extended families and communities, their languages and cultures, and their lands. Their experiences are collective, and yet as individual and varied as each human being and family. Those who survived the trauma of government-funded familial abductions have been emotionally and spiritually scarred and had the equivalent of a traumatic amputation, having their origins and identity ripped away.

 The term “Sixties Scoop” was first used in the 1980’s by Patrick Johnston, who was a researcher for the Canadian Council on Social Development. His report, entitled “Native Children and the Welfare System” described the large-scale apprehension, usually without Band or parental consent, and their placement into predominantly non-Indigenous families across the USA and Canada. The Scoop was not motivated by a need to address Indigenous Canadian child welfare. Rather, it was a self-serving paternalistic set of policies that furthered the assimilation of Indigenous cultures and communities.

Laws created in 1951 gave provinces jurisdictional powers over Indigenous peoples and their children and child welfare, who were all under the control of the federal Indian Act already. Rather than provide the necessary supports and resources, most provinces sought to remove the First Nation, Inuit and Metis children from their families and communities instead. Although it is hard to track exact numbers, it is estimated over 25,000 children were scooped. And this continues: according to 2016 Statistics Canada data, Indigenous children make up less than 8% of children in Canada but account for more than 50% of children in foster care.  

There are many resources to further explore the Sixties Scoop. This includes the new CRAVE and APTN series, “Little Bird” which just debuted in 2023; the National Film Board film “Birth of a Family” by Sixties Scoop Survivor and filmmaker Dr. Tasha Hubbard, a documentary which tells the story of Sixties Scoop Survivor and award-winning journalist Betty Ann Adams and her siblings as they reunited across borders; and many articles and books such as Ohpikiihaakan-ohpihmeh (Raised Somewhere Else): A ’60s Scoop Adoptee’s Story of Coming Home by Colleen Cardinal and Intimate Integration: A History of the Sixties Scoop and the Colonization of Indigenous Kinship by Allyson D. Stevenson. One of the ground-breaking novels about the Scoop was written by Sixties Scoop Survivor Beatrice Moisonier, In Search of April Raintree. It is largely acknowledged to be semi-autobiographical.

  The Scoop of Indigenous children continues to this present day, and is now known as the Millenia Scoop. For example, currently in Manitoba, 90% of children in foster care are Indigenous, while Indigenous people in Manitoba represent less than 3% of the population. Indigenous children are still being removed from their families and cultures in outrageously disproportionate numbers across Canada to this day. While some laws have at least demanded that Indigenous communities be given notice if a member of their community is placed, and some bands are gradually gaining their own control of child welfare of their own members, "birth alerts" are still common in many provinces. Social Services automatically receive notifications when an Indigenous baby is about to be born, and they automatically investigate placement from the hospital of each Indigenous newborn, often without the consent of the Indigenous community and without the consent of the parents.

Below you will see Wayne Garnons-Williams Current Acting CEO advertised for adoption as a child and a photo of his mother at the approximate age her child was taken.

The Sixties Scoop Healing Foundation of Canada

The Sixties Scoop Healing Foundation was founded out of a class action settlement by four brave Sixties Scoop Survivors; Wendy Lee White, Catriona Charlie, Marcia Brown and Jessica Riddle. The federal judge accepted a negotiated class action settlement rather than risking a finding of culpability by the federal government.

 The negotiated class action settlement was compensation in the form of a lump sum of $750 million to be distributed on an equal basis for all officially recognized Sixties Scoop Survivors, and a lump sum of $50 million to create a Healing Foundation managed by a Board of Directors, to establish healing programs nationally and preserve the records and stories of the survivors for future research. In some ways this work has never been done before, though there are guidelines in place with other Healing Foundations and Initiatives, funding for which has since been withdrawn.

 The initial Sixties Scoop Healing Foundation Interim Board of Directors was appointed in 2018 and operated until November 12, 2020. The five interim board members were Cindy Blackstock; Maggie Blue Waters; Jeffery Wilson; Sally Susan Mathias Martel; and Sharon Russell.  

In November 2020 ten individuals were chosen to be the inaugural Board, via a process of engagement from survivors in the form of a National Survivor Engagement Report. Survivors outlined the skills, experience, and qualities they believed to be critical. The recruitment process had to be thoughtful, credible, and as objective as possible. Recruitment was open, inclusive, and transparent, with ample opportunity for individuals to apply, and a clear articulation of how the selection process worked. The Foundation engaged a broad range of potential candidates of diverse backgrounds and experiences and removed any barriers.

An Ad-Hoc Selection Committee was chosen from five individuals with no interest in Board positions, simply to support the selection process from 32 short-listed candidates to rank nine final candidates for the final stage of assessment. The five members of the Ad-Hoc committee were identified by the Engagement Team and Expert Advisors and then approved by the interim Board based on their experience, credentials, and credibility as well as their impartiality, lack of conflict of interest, stated commitment to adhere to Survivor Engagement Report criteria, and willingness to support the work as volunteers in strict confidence. The five committee members selected were Dr. Allyson Stevenson, an academic whose research focuses on the Sixties Scoop as an adoptee from Kinistino, Saskatchewan; Dr. Renee Linklater from Rainy River, internationally known for her work on trauma and healing; Banakonda Kennedy-Kish Bell, Elder-in-Residence at Wilfred Laurier University; Dr. Cornelia Wiemen, the first female Indigenous psychiatrist in Canada; and Bernadette Iahtail, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Creating Hope Society established to support Survivors.  

The very first Board was chosen by this process in November of 2020. The new Board members were Wayne Garnons-Williams, Cheryl Swidrovich, Danelle St. Laurent, Eric Phillips, Gary McDermott, Halie Bruce, Selina Legge, Vicky Boldo, Anna Watts, and Justice Harry LaForme. Nine of these ten were survivors of the Sixties Scoop, and in accordance with the Settlement Agreement the federal government appointed one member of the Board of Directors: Justice Harry LaForme.

Currently the Foundation is led by Acting Board Chair Shirley Cardinal (filling in for Chair Wayne Garnons-Williams, who has stepped down to Act as CEO during recruitment for that position), with fellow board members Selina Legge, Eric Phillips, Danelle St. Laurent, Pauletta Tremblett, Rochelle Lynn Guiboche, and Michael Christian.

Each Board member is a Scoop Survivor or a descendant, and the Board is reflective of national representation from sea to sea to sea.  In the past two years, since the establishment of the permanent Board of Directors, the Board has successfully granted over four million dollars to 21 organizations across Canada, from sea to sea to sea, in each region of Canada, so as to begin the work of healing survivors through reclamation, reunion, and cultural practices reconnecting them to what has been lost. There is still much work to do, and it is the work of every person in this country to undertake it. Through education, awareness, sensitivity and support, the loss of Indigenous identity, family, community, culture, language and lands must begin to be restored in meaningful ways. The goal of the Healing Foundation is to empower every Indigenous survivor by educating the wider public about what survivors have gone through.  

The Foundation does not provide direct healing or reunification to survivors or their families: this is the role of the regional Sixties Scoop organizations, Indigenous Friendship Centres, and other healing program providers. The core mandate of the Foundation is to provide funding to these regional organizations so that they may undertake tailored regional healing and reunification programs to meet their specific local and cultural needs.  All survivors carry a heavy load as they try to work together to help one another, while dealing with their own traumas and trying to heal the wounds of an inter-generational attempted genocide that has not only gone on since first contact, but accelerated in their lifetime.   Reunification is painful and difficult, given geographical placement and the fact that many in a given family may now be deceased.  

Supports from our successful grant recipients here.

On National Indigenous Peoples Day, we ask that all people in this country stop for a moment and think how they would feel if someone came and took their children away today without notice or valid justification, sending them far away, never to return?  The illegal removal of First Nation, Inuit and Métis children from their homes, culture and communities is the infliction of a wound on the psyche of all the victims and all who participated in that theft.

It is a permanent stain on the history of Canada which cannot be repaid by any monetary amount. How much, after all, is your child worth to you? All we can all hope for is the healing that is needed by everyone in Canada.

 To all Sixties Scoop Survivors and their friends and families – please know we are thinking of you today and hoping that you are able to find some space to continue to reclaim what was wrongly taken from you.

 To all Canadians – please know that this is a legacy of our country directly tied to those little children who have suffered. We ask you to consider how you can help with the Truth and Reconciliation of this country when it comes to the Sixties Scoop, which continues to harm past, present, and future generations.  

Remember the words of Justice Murray Sinclair, Chair of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission, in the Seminal Conclusion to his Final Report 2015:   Reconciliation calls for federal, provincial, and territorial action.  
Reconciliation calls for national action.
The way we govern ourselves must change.
Laws must change.
Policies and programs must change.
The way we do business must change.
Thinking must change.
The way we talk to and about each other must change.  

All Canadians must make a firm and lasting commitment to reconciliation to ensure that Canada is a country where our children and grandchildren can all thrive.  

The National Sixties Scoop Healing Foundation

In the spirit of healing, restoration and solidarity,  gilakas'la, kinanâskomitin, marsee, marsi cho, migwetch, nia;wen, niaut, nakummek, nakirmiik, tshinashkumitin, wela'lin, tiawenhk, wliWni, nakummek, tiniki, LimLimpt, merci, thank you,

If you wish to make a tax-deductible donation to the Sixties Scoop Healing Foundation contact:  
Selina Legge
Sixties Scoop Healing Foundation  

If you wish to get in contact in regards to Media, please send to the Sixties Scoop Healing Foundation contact:  Communications@60sscoopfoundation.com Acting Director of Communications: Rochelle Guiboche